The Spectacular Now ★★★½

“I like to think there's more to a person than just one thing.”

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-Non 2020 First Watches

What’s crazy watching this in 2020 is just how many recognizable names are in this film. For 2013, these weren’t A listers yet, but are still extremely recognizable. Miles Teller delivers a great performance and carries the story, pre Whiplash and Fantastic Four days. So he’s not a big name for 2013. Our other lead, Shailene Woodley, hasn’t been in really anything memorable since this, so she’s a forgotten talent as well. But then for supporting cast members, you have a bunch of recognizable names. Brie Larson and Kaitlyn Dever were just becoming Hollywood household names, while Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Bob Odenkirk are all familiar faces that aren’t quite star talent. That was fun to see so many actors I knew, it distracted me from the fact that Teller is in every single scene.

Where this story really works for me is when it’s focusing on the relationship between Sutter and Aimee. Without knowing anything about this film going in, I expected it to be a romantic drama. And it kinda was, but I expected more of it. That first half of the film was spectacular (pun intended) as our leads bond and form their relationship. It had given me all I wanted out of a romantic drama up to that point.

But the more we focus in on Sutter’s personal issues, the less intriguing the story gets. The storyline about his father is interesting, but I don’t think it fit for this 90 minute story. If this movie was 2 hours or more, I think there’s plenty of time to cover that plot point. But in this short of a film, it just didn’t fit. Similarly, their relationship escalated so quickly that they had about half the film left to throw in other plot lines. If the relationship took longer to build up, showed a bit more tension and stakes and desire, it would’ve been more memorable. There were three writers for this film, which is odd. Usually there’s only two or one, so too many cooks in the kitchen could absolutely be a reason why some of this doesn’t work, especially for a 90 minute movie.

All in all, when The Spectacular Now focuses on the love story and relationship of our two leads, it’s fantastic. Easily one of my favorite romance films of the decade when it focuses on that. But when the story shifts to other plot lines, the whole film drops a bit. Fortunately, the first half is so good that it holds this up in my eyes.

Rating: B+