The Spectacular Now (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byKatherine McLaughlin12/10/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

James Ponsoldt’s third feature film to deal with alcoholism breathes new and interesting life into the coming of age genre.

What’s it all about?
Alcoholic teenager Sutter is living in the moment and partying hard. When his long-time girlfriend Cassidy decides it’s time for them to split up, Sutter goes on a massive bender to get over it, but in his search for numbness he ends up meeting a wonderful companion and confidante in Aimee who forces him to confront his past and find out who is father is.

The Good
The serendipitous meeting between Sutter and Aimee acts as a catalyst for a coming-of-age romance which may not sound all that original but Ponsoldt proves once again he is a gifted storyteller by delivering a funny and tragic tale that doesn’t quite go where you expect it to. Shailene Woodley (who had her breakthrough in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants) has great chemistry with Teller in her role as the good girl enticed by the charms and promises of a young alcoholic.

Whereas the prom is generally the pinnacle of the coming-of-age film, Ponsoldt uses it instead as a touching revelation scene and shifts significance to Sutter’s alcoholism and problems by delivering harsh doses of reality.

The Great
Miles Teller is channelling a young Vince Vaughan through the wise talking and overly confident Sutter for much of the running time, but he also brings a much needed vulnerability in the latter half of the film as things take a dark turn. Ponsoldt has painted the character of Sutter as an old soul in a young body who sneakily sips from a fast food drinks container at work to conceal his addiction and Teller perfects both the cheek and underlying sadness of this teenager.

Ponsoldt has proven his ability to create damaged but relatable characters with his previous films Off the Black and Smashed which are also powerful depictions of alcoholism. His tragic lead characters are always drawn extremely well, but Ponsoldt has the ability to shine a believable glimmer of hope on them without treading too far into sentimentality.

Worth seeing?
The Spectacular Now does a rare thing in its capacity to adjust the coming of age film to appeal to a wide audience which is mainly down to James Pondsoldt’s delicate and mature handling of difficult issues. Another astonishing achievement.

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Content updated: 22/11/2019 08:37

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