In The Spectacular Now, directed by James Ponsoldt, Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) is a high school geek. She’s in French club, likes sci-fi comics and shares a paper route with her mom. On her route, she discovers a passed out Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) by the side of the road. When he regains consciousness, he vaguely recognizes her but doesn’t know her name. She knows his as does everyone at school. He’s a born hustler, the self-described “life of every party.” The social gap may be insurmountable, but he needs help with geometry so there’s hope.
Aimee’s nerdiness is established without thick glasses or funny clothes. She’s on the cute side but not as stylish as Cassidy (Brie Larson) who recently broke up with Sutter because he lacked “a future.” She’s part of the upper echelon and has hooked up with the over-achieving football hero/student body president Marcus (Dayo Okenlyl). Because she won’t stop talking about Sutter, Marcus confronts him, wanting to know his secret. After reassuring him that he’s “awesome,” Sutter advises Marcus to relax and live in “the now.”
The publicity photos show Aimee and Sutter hanging all over each other. For most of the movie, however, they’re kept apart, physically and psychologically. And this isn’t Pretty in Pink, ending happily ever after at senior prom. Here, it’s only the midpoint in their journey.
Beautifully shot in a rustic part of Georgia by James Hall, The Spectacular Now evokes the innocence of the 1980s. The young co-stars couldn’t be better. Jennifer Jason Leigh [Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)] and Kyle Chandler lend support as Sutter’s estranged parents. Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad) is Dan, the manager of the clothing store where Sutter works. Dan can see the pain behind the charming facade. He offers fatherly advice, but it’s up to Sutter to figure it out for himself.