This was the second film I went to see at the Melbourne International Film Festival and I’m SO glad I did.
The Spectacular Now’s comparisons to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is expected, and shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. Its a very good thing. An era of teen film where it wasn’t.. American Pie, it is not.
When I’ve described this verbally to anyone asking what I’ve watched lately, I really do look at this and think; he’s like Ferris Bueller.. but an alcoholic. Its a high school film, but there aren’t any cliches to it. Boy meets girl, well once he is prodded awake after passing out on someone’s front lawn. Boy is intrigued by girl, though still pining after party girl ex-girlfriend. But the film isn’t really a love story in the traditional sense. And its not a story about alcohol bad, education good either.
The official blurb reads;
A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.”
It presents like it should be cliched, and it could have been.
When I have likened it to that John Hughes classic, the next expectation is that there’s a life lesson at the end. It doesn’t spoon feed you a lesson; if anything it presents you with that out of body perspective that you might not realise you could access.
Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are the two leads in this fresh look on what happens what you finish high school. Or rather the emotions (or in teen speak; ALL OF THE FEELS) leading up to graduation day.
Miles as Sutter Keeley is that popular guy. He’s the class joker, but the popular kind that gets along with everyone and isn’t a jerk. He also carries a hip flask at all times. He gets those big giant cups from a convenience store and basically drinks spiked drinks, as much as anyone would drink water during the day. He’s constantly buzzed. But not ‘obnoxiously’ drunk. He’s just… more gregarious.
He wakes up one morning on the lawn of a stranger’s house; and peering at him, trying to wake him up is Aimee Finecky, played gloriously by Woodley. I could have used the word gloriously, or rapturously… it just fits. She’s fresh faced and holds the type of confidence in herself that isn’t at all a youthful kind of arrogance. She’s confident in her body, in her presence, and doesn’t need some high school prom award to tell her she’s worth her place in the world.
When I say fresh faced; this is important. She is not wearing makeup. I’m not talking the ‘no makeup, makeup’ type of makeup where the skin is entirely one beautiful alabaster tone, with a natural blush to the cheeks. No; this is adolescent skin. There is some patchiness. There is darkness under the eyes. At first, it makes you look closer. It does make you think about it. But then you realise that this is allowing us to relate even more to this teenage experience. This is not a glossy 90210 look at graduation. This is the same for Miles as well; in fact in a real life recent accident, this scarred him (minor) but it meant that he was slightly less of a Hollywood front cover paradigm.
Look, its really NOT even about that at all; but I wanted to draw you in more to the fact that this is such a natural performance from the two leads. There are some really amazing moments, and you feel so absolutely voyeuristic, and at times uncomfortable being privy to their relationship, there’s some nervous laughter that happens. My heart was beating faster just watching certain moments, and I felt a bit like I was their age being privy to it. When you meet Kyle Chandler (COACH TAYLOR, I mean.. from Friday Night Lights on TV, Super 8) that is a turning point for Sutter, and for us, the audience.
This film really lingers with you. Whilst it thankfully didn’t bring me to the tears that Fruitvale Station did, well, it is still on my mind. I would absolutely see this again. And well, I want to read the book now too!
(This review was originally published on the reviewer’s site. To see more reviews, please visit http://pop-couture.com)