This isn’t a movie that introduces you to new characters. It’s a movie that reminds you of people you already know–people you’ve come to know and care about.
Its two leads are entirely genuine. You’ve got Sutter (Miles Teller), a smooth-talking popular kid who glides through life and lives in the “now.” He always has a soft-drink cup filled with booze by his side and, when he isn’t at home with his working single-mom, he’s either out partying with his equally-cool girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) or selling men’s ties. After a night of partying, he wakes up on someone’s unknown front lawn with quiet girl Aimee (Shailene Woodley) standing above him–and, that’s the moment you may realize something special is gonna happen.
But, just like in real life, their relationship progresses slowly. It may even appear a bit lack luster. Aimee, the shy, reserved and sweet girl who does her mother’s paper route on the daily, doesn’t really know the life of partying or relationships like Sutter does; but, she’s equally open to experiencing that side with Sutter by her side. With a genuine smile and Sutter’s invitations, she always sweetly replies, “I’d love to.”
First, she helps Sutter find his car as he has no idea where he is. Sutter doesn’t know who Aimee is, but Aimee knows well-enough who he is, as they’ve grown up going to the same schools. And, in a sense, Sutter gets to know this girl unlike others have really made the effort to, and you can tell she loves opening up to this boy. It’s like you’ve got the shy girl with a good head on her shoulders ironing out the bad boy with a heart of gold.
Their relationship subtly reminded me of a modern-day Jamie and Landon character dynamic from A Walk to Remember; yet, there are no extraordinary or out-of-the-ordinary life events or situations that suddenly make their relationship work. Naturally, they learn about each other’s quirks and problems that have led them to who they are. Issues abound, and we find they both are wounded, in a sense, and they find solace in that. Yes, they have their differences, but don’t we all? And that’s what makes this film entirely true and genuine. This film greatly emphasizes the innocence in two broken souls finding each other and helping each other out, sharing smiles, new experiences, and some pain along the way–no matter how uncomfortable it may be watching it.
As the movie goes on, rather than focusing on the relationship between Sutter and Aimee, we suddenly find ourselves looking into Sutter. We have meetings and glimpses of the life he lives, how broken and “bad” he might be, and how he overcomes obstacles he’d rather not go through if it not be by Aimee’s influence (how more real could that get?).
And then we begin to question whether Sutter is really good for Aimee–if their relationship is something we should be smiling about. We observe who they are and how they interact, but there’s just something between them that’s worth holding onto–much like the young love we found in our teenage years, even if we couldn’t quite understand it. And I’m sure we’ve all had those moments like Aimee when we knew bad was coming but we still wanted to go through with it.
Aimee envisions a great future ahead of her. But, Sutter lives for the now and can never settle down or commit to things, which is why he has detached himself from so many things. He even has some shattering meetings that forces him to be honest with himself.
The Spectacular Now does focus on the moment of their progression. And though it wasn’t a movie that initially stuck with me, what’s great is how genuinely Teller and Woodley portray their characters. They are relatable with recognizable behaviors that allow us to take glimpses into the truth. Also, while there’s nothing really extravagant sticking out at you when watching, there’s something that sticks with you. Whether it be the utter innocence of it all, or finding salvage in relationships like these, there’s something spectacular about watching something that makes you feel like you weren’t watching something in the first place. It’s familiar, with all its laughs, humor, bad behaviors, temptations, and discomfort. It’s simply put, spectacularly now.
And I saw a bit too much of myself in Aimee. Maybe you will, too?