THE SPECTACULAR NOW
(directed by James Ponsoldt, 2013)
(**** out of 5)
> Penned by the same inspired minds behind the enchanting (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber), THE SPECTACULAR NOW is almost spectacularly good. I knew a few minutes into the giddy pre-credits prologue that I was in for some heady fun. I’ve been seeing a number of films lately that paint impressionist pictures of youth and the unique world that the young inhabit. (MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD, SOMETHING IN THE AIR, SWIMMING, FRANCIS HA, THE WE AND THE I are all good.) As someone entering the final chapter of his life, these excursions into the unique territory of youth are misty-eyed experiences. They are often revisionist nostalgia- it doesn’t always ring true to my own recollections of that singular terrain- but when they succeed, as this film does, they are emotionally breathtaking experiences.
. The fresh young actor in the lead role (Miles Teller) gets the hubris of youth perfectly: the boundless ego, the deep insecurity and the broad bravado used to mask it. At first, he seems cast against type- looking like an average somewhat nerdy dweeb, but accepted as a popular figure among his peers- he can be counted upon to be the life of any party. Miles is just so very good in every frame I can hardly wait to see what his future career brings. It’s a love story: big man on campus hooks up, almost against his wishes, with an unpopular nobody, and genuine sparks begin to fly. Miles is perfectly paired with the delicately plain/beautiful Shailene Woodley (very memorable as George Clooney’s daughter in THE DESCENDANTS), who brings an honest vulnerability to every honest moment. When she is told by Miles that she is genuinely beautiful, (even though pains appear to have been taken to make a natural beauty look plain), we know exactly what he means. She is!
. One scene was a particular kick in the head for me- as I have rarely seen my own life experience mirrored back so nakedly in a film. At one point, while bathed in the giddy delight of the latest in what seems like a neverending stream of carefree parties, our brash but sympathetic protagonist takes a moment to pause and remove himself from the delightful mayhem surrounding him, struck with an epiphany that lights his face with a bittersweet joy. He suddenly speaks aloud, to nobody: “This is as good as it gets! We will never be this young again…” I had that moment. I will never forget it: the sudden realization that Life Is Good, and living- spectacular!
> From the production values to the script and editing, I just can’t think of anything to criticize about this very sweet little independent picture, that had the audacity to advertise in the title that it is SPECTACULAR. In the way this film reminds you that life is so very, very good, this heartfelt gem is spectacular indeed.
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