Friday, August 2, 2013

That Hum Beyond Gunshots and Car Crashes Is 'The Spectacular Now'

IT'S summertime. The livin' is easy and the flicks are engineered for high-octane action.

But amongst the clatter and clamor of "R.I.P.D.," "Fast & Furious 6," "2 Guns" (which opens today) and "Elysium," (opening 9 Aug.), there are quiet little films such as "The Spectacular Now." Like the bullet-splattering, violence-ridden, Washington/Wahlberg-powered "2 Guns," it opens today, albeit in very limited release. (See video above).

"The Spectacular Now" is the sort of film that one rarely sees anymore: One that depicts teen love and angst in a thoughtful manner. Here are two youngsters, trying to make their way. They are not on hard drugs, though one has a budding alcohol problem if he's not careful; they are not sex-crazed; they do not hate their parents. The protagonists are not afflicted by ADHD or another of the other myriad maladies that affects so many young people in this age.

Indeed, this pair is normal, with many of the peccadilloes and contradictions that used to define teens before the technological revolution and an uber acquisitive culture claimed their minds and souls, morphing this segment of society into the disrespectful, entitled, maladjusted, morally challenged set much of it is today.

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is popular and outgoing. This Big Man on Campus comes into the life of low-key good girl Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley) via a drunken episode informed by the breakup with his blonde bombshell girlfriend. Sutter and Aimee are an unlikely pair. He lives in the "now," or rather talks a good game of it. Aimee's feet are firmly planted in the future. Yet, they attract like magnets.

This ying and yang is the hook that drives "The Spectacular Now." As Sutter and Aimee's relationship takes on additional shades and layers, they draw increasingly close - each encouraging the other to take a stand against life's challenges that would make him/her cower.

It is not clear where James Ponsoldt's direction ends and where the acting begins in this story based on Tim Tharp's book of the same name. The interaction between the main two characters is so effortless. "The Spectacular Now," which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is intelligent and gutsy enough to depict life as messy as it sometimes is.

Though tender, it avoids becoming overly sentimental. SW is particularly winning as awkward, brainy Aimee. Here's a heroine for the wallflowers of the world - past, present and future

"The Spectacular Now" is an island of calm in an ocean of massive waves and unrelenting undertow.

"The Spectacular Now" is rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality - all involving teens; visit to learn more about the film. "2 Guns" is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity; visit to learn more about the film.

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