James Ponsoldt is one of today greatest cinematic visionaries when it comes to portraying what it means to be human, resembling the directorial nature of someone like Jim Jarmusch or a subtle Kaufman, Ponsoldt is a force to be reckoned with. The film that proved Teller & Woodley weren’t just one-hit wonders after their success in films like Rabbit Hole or The Descendants, The Spectacular Now tells a very resonant story that deals with addiction, love, and failure. Disguised as a simple teen love-story, The Spectacular Now is a scary film about the future, it tries to make the now what we should believe in, yet it keeps pointing at ultimate hard-hitting punches of destiny and failure, its a beautiful warning-tale with great characterizations that manages to take this film genre in a whole different direction that exposes what can really be achieved with a camera and a great story.
The Spectacular Now truly does live up to its title, its a spectacular, mature tale about that in-between point that might seem like oblivion for many, senior year when you have no idea what you’re going to do with your life. Its a strong statement on those formative years, nurture vs. nature, and how you interpret the world around you based on your state of emotional being. Its sad, funny, poignant, depressing, hopeful, its fabrication of the relatable, we all know someone like Teller’s Sutter Keely, but to actually be placed in his shoes is a completely different story. The Spectacular Now completely turns the party-boy/loser completely around, as it does for the quite nice-girl with Shailene Woodley delivering with such a fantastic performance. Normally we’d see these mentalities clash, but instead Neustadter and Weber find a way to make these personalities complement themselves. Whether that be Woodley’s Aimee patiently teaching Keely geometry or Keely teaching Aimee how to stand up for herself, its a dynamic relationship, and a beautiful way of interpreting the way love works.
Then there’s the film’s philosophical approach to the “now” which it tries to bring to life as a vibrant, emotional, graceful being, yet contradicts the statement with basically every other moment in the film. Its controversial to showcase there’s more than the now, there’s a future and a legacy that must be thought of and never traded for simple fun moments that can ultimately perpetuate until you realize the damage you’ve done to yourself because of not thinking about the future and imprisoning yourself in this lurid bubble that you call “The Now.” So, by the time the film is ending (no spoilers), it seems like a nice conclusion is going on, yet all I can think in my head is contradicting than ending, I see a girl that used to always smile trying her hardest to smile and a boy that’s trying to succeed headed a downward spiral towards a result I’ll only label as Tommy to not ruin anything that happens in the film. The Spectacular Now is an incredible, human cautionary tale, but by the end of it, its so burdened by the notion of in-coming depression that it deflates the concept a third of its title is referring, leading me to rank The Spectacular Now at an 84 out of 100.“