By Katherine Oostman
“The Spectacular Now” is a simple story, but it is a great story. It tangles together the fears, challenges and vibrancy of adolescence, throws the characters in and says, “Good luck.”
Sutter Keely is the life of the party—until his popular girlfriend dumps him. Aimee Finecky doesn’t seem to have a life outside of school until Sutter takes an interest.
A complicated relationship unfolds. Aimee tutors Sutter in geometry while Sutter uses Aimee to make his ex jealous. However, Aimee’s innocence causes Sutter to reevaluate his priorities—he realizes he’s an uneducated drunk going nowhere fast.
This film resonates because it reflects reality. The plot of this film comes from the novel of the same name by Tim Tharpp, a National Book Award Finalist. It’s the tale of a young man determining what he is living for and, most importantly, why.
Each character creates a volatile clash of compassion and resentment from the viewers—very similar to the confusing heat affiliated with teen years. Everyone who has been or is a teenager will feel this story deeply.
Some film critics claim this film, through redemptive, portrays too many negative elements, lifestyles and habits positively (or without consequence) to be considered a “good” or “moral” film. “The Spectacular Now” is riddled with profanity, highlighted by alcoholism and involves two blatant sexual encounters. However, to say the consequences are not addressed is an oversight.
Sutter’s rebellion against his mom, his selfish use of Aimee, his alcoholism and even his swearing all work together to break down who he is and to construct someone new.
This is a story about living in the “now” and learning what that really means. Sutter’s mantra is, to put it in a simple and culturally relevant way, YOLO (You Only Live Once). However, as the film progresses, he rewrites the last part of the sentence from “You only live once, so get it all in now” to “You only live once, so surround yourself with what matters.” He realizes that life is a collage of moments named “Now.”
“The Spectacular Now” is simply beautiful. With its natural dialogue, sparse makeup and gently lit faces, this movie is real—a beautiful disaster, just like its characters. It invites the audience into shared, raw emotions. “The Spectacular Now” violates the heart in an effort to reveal it.