Review: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley do exquisite work in heartfelt Sundance hit 'Spectacular Now'
PARK CITY - One of the benefits of staying longer than the opening weekend of the Sundance Film Festival is that you can catch up with films towards the end of the festival that have picked up buzz over the previous days. As soon as "The Spectacular Now" made its public premiere, it became a priority for me to see during the festival, and it more than lived up to the early word. Written by the same writers as "(500) Days Of Summer" and directed by the filmmaker behind last year's "Smashed," I think "The Spectacular Now" is better than either of those films, and it delivers a strong emotional punch in a smart overall package.
Based on a novel by Tim Tharp, "The Spectacular Now" tells the story of Sutter Keely, played here by Miles Teller, who is coasting through his high school career on a cloud of innate charm and alcohol fumes. He is the life of the party, and that's the problem. Constantly drunk, he seems to believe that there is no reason to think about the future at all. He is all about the moment, all about the sensation. As the film begins, his long-time girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) has reached the breaking point, and she can't do it anymore. She knows how charming he is, but she also knows that he's dragging her down, and she wants more. There is a strong tie between the two of them, and as much as it pains her, she can't continue to let him dictate the way they both seem to be failing. Once Sutter finds himself on his own, he is rudderless, and he spends a lot of energy trying to convince himself that none of it matters, that it's okay that she left him. His mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a hard time really communicating with him, and the unspoken space between them has to do with Sutter's long-absent father. His older sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is out of the house, married, and she married into money, doing her best to leave behind her upbringing.