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The Spectacular Now(2013)
Sutter Keely lives in the now. It's a good place for him. A high school senior, charming and self-possessed, he's the life of the party, loves his job at a men's clothing store, and has no plans for the future. A budding alcoholic, he's never far from his supersized, whiskey-fortified thirst-master cup. But after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter gets drunk and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finicky hovering over him. She's different: the "nice girl" who reads science fiction and doesn't have a boyfriend. While Amy has dreams of a future, Sutter lives in the impressive delusion of a spectacular now, yet somehow, they're drawn together.
For more about The Spectacular Now and the The Spectacular Now Blu-ray release, see the The Spectacular Now Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 15, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miles Teller, Brie Larson (I), Masam Holden, Dayo Okeniyi
Director: James Ponsoldt
» See full cast & crew
The Spectacular Now Blu-ray Review
The perks of being.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 15, 2014
There's a very telling moment early on in the teen comedy-drama The Spectacular Now, where a good time party boy high school senior rather improbably named Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) asks a girl named Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) for a quick summation of who she is. Sutter gives one or two word descriptions of some their classmates—things like the stoner, the nerd, and so on—but Aimee resolutely refuses to categorize herself in any way, perhaps as much out of a basic insecurity as for any deep held convictions. But the salient interest in this conversation is just how much some high school kids do tend to stuff people into prefab niches, which may help them to cope with the maddening array of personality types one typically encounters at the period of life. The Spectacular Now follows in the footsteps of a bunch of somewhat similarly themed films, outings like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it offers a kind of unusual twist in that its putative hero Sutter isn't the typical nerd or outcast, and is in fact a regular on the school's party circuit—perhaps too much of a regular, it turns out. Sutter has a drinking problem, something that's divulged relatively "innocently" enough (with him sneaking a bit of hooch into a soda at his job and with one scene where he shows up drunk to confront his ex-girlfriend), but which soon starts to loom large as he confronts the end of "childhood" with his impending graduation from high school. The Spectacular Now is a rather unassuming "little" film that ends up packing an atypical emotional wallop as it moves along. It has several flaws, from the minor (I mean, really—a character named Sutter Keely?) to more troubling (a rather pat resolution that kind of whitewashes much of what has gone before), but it's a noble effort from director James Ponsoldt, who has become something of a critical darling and audience favorite at several of the last few Sundance Festivals.
The Spectacular Now actually starts with Sutter (Miles Teller) filling out college application essays online, though in a rather shall we say unorthodox manner, repeatedly dropping the F-bomb and lamenting about his recent breakup with his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larsen). (As the father of a high school senior who is currently ensconced in this very activity, the scene actually made me want to cheer—some of the application essay questions are remarkably dunderheaded.) Sutter and Cassidy have long been the collective lives of the party, though when Sutter tries to reunite with the girl at a get together, he discovers she's already taken up with a new guy named Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi). Sutter leaves to drown his sorrows, only to be awakened the next morning by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who had discovered him passed out on a neighbor's lawn while she was doing her morning paper route (actually her mother's paper route, but I digress).
Aimee is definitely not in Sutter's social circle, and yet he almost instantly recognizes something decent in the girl that somehow speaks to his perhaps latent better angels. The two begin a halting friendship, one which is coaxed along when Sutter asks for Aimee's help with troubles he's having in his Geometry class. Some of Aimee's friends obviously don't think much of Sutter (they've already categorized him as a hard partying loser). It's not a totally one way situation with regard to help, though, for Sutter also recognizes that Aimee needs to develop more of a backbone when dealing with her harridan mother. Before the two really realize what's happening, they're more deeply involved than perhaps either had ever planned or counted on.
There's frankly not anything incredibly new or innovative about The Spectacular Now, other than its rather beautifully unvarnished look at two disparate souls, each of which has its own baggage. In fact it's the baggage—some inherited, some self-created—that becomes the film's defining theme. Aimee is out to make something of her life, ostensibly by escaping to Philadelphia to attend college, but she still has to deal with psychological shadows cast by her overbearing mother. Ironically, Sutter has consigned himself to living in the moment, albeit completely without ambition (and usually with a swig of alcohol at his beck and call), but he, too, is haunted by a shadow—of his long estranged father (played wonderfully by Kyle Chandler in one of the film's nicest sequences). Both of these kids are looking at their nascent young adulthoods from radically different perspectives, and it's here that The Spectacular Now really starts to develop the emotional wallop that it eventually manifests in spades.
The film has one devastating surprise late in the game which threatens to turn the film into a lachrymose tearjerker. But here again screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (adapting the novel by Tim Tharp) and director James Ponsoldt step back from a cliché ridden precipice to set the film in a hopeful direction. While it's at least arguable that the final moments of the film are a bit too pat for their own good, they also serve as a fitting symbol for what Sutter himself has had to go through to begin to realize ruts are only as real as you choose to make them.
The Spectacular Now Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Spectacular Now is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. Shot on film by cinematographer Jess Hall (who shot the funny "Don't" segment of Grindhouse), The Spectacular Now makes great use of its Georgia locations to evince a kind of golden, glowing ambience that seems to perfectly illustrate the frozen moment in time that Sutter wants to preserve. A lot of the film is (deliberately) on the slightly soft side, with lower contrast than some might expect. Hall also seems to prefer natural lighting in virtually every shot, which means that a few interior scenes are bathed in quite a few shadows, which tend to deprive those moments of much in the way of fine detail. Colors are beautifully suffused and very accurate looking, but it's the light that Hall captures that really creates The Spectacular Now's very evocative mood, and that nicely modulated array of brightness and darkness is rendered very well on this high definition presentation.
The Spectacular Now Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Spectacular Now's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is subtle but effective, tending to only draw attention to itself in moments like the early party scene where Sutter confronts Cassidy. Otherwise, there's some fine, if at times rather quiet, ambient environmental effects that are placed quite well around the soundfield, helping to sonically recreate the small town feel that Ponsoldt felt was so important to the film's mood. Dialogue is cleanly presented and Rob Simonsen's nice score also sounds great. There's not a wealth of huge dynamic range here, but fidelity is top notch and there are no problems to report.
The Spectacular Now Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Spectacular Now Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I received some particularly nasty messages when my review for The Perks of Being a Wallflower wasn't an out and out rave, but I'll tell you why I personally find The Spectacular Now so much more convincing as a teenage dramedy: it's less contrived, it's less pretentious, and it has a more nuanced approach to the trials and tribulations of this very important time in everyone's lives. This film isn't perfect by any means, and I can well understand those who find the ending a letdown, but the writing here is excellent and the two lead performers are completely in tune with each other, creating a totally believable "young love" scenario that is both uplifting and heartbreaking in equal measure. The supporting cast is also aces, with a really effective turn by Kyle Chandler as a kind of loutish father giving Sutter a sneak preview into what his life might be like if he doesn't start making changes. This Blu-ray presentation has solid video and audio and comes Highly recommended.
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The Spectacular Now Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 14-21 - January 12, 2014
For the week of January 14th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment streets Riddick on Blu-ray. Other titles include Fox's Enough Said, the docudrama The Butler, Lionsgate's You're Next, The Spectacular Now, and Pride and Prejudice releases, and Criterion's Rififi ...
• The Spectacular Now Blu-ray - November 5, 2013
Lionsgate Films has officially announced and detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of director James Ponsoldt's romantic comedy The Spectacular Now (2013), starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Ava London, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The release ...
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