Considering all the bells and whistles (and explosions and car chases) that go into summer movies, it’s amazing when a film reminds us that all it takes to engage an audience is a couple of characters we care about. That’s the beauty of The Spectacular Now—which, indeed, has nothing spectacular about it, except for the spectacular charm of its two leads.
Sutter (Miles Teller) is a seemingly happy-go-lucky college senior. He’s the life of the party—everyone’s friend, the sort of guy who talks to teachers about his academic shortcomings in such a chummy way that they become co-conspirators in improving his grades.
Sutter also always has a flasket of alcohol at the ready (or a Big Gulp spiked with booze.) His alcoholism is not treated in a breathless, After-School Special sort of way, but rather like a symptom of a secret problem with Sutter’s sense of self that the film will eventually reveal.
As the film starts, Sutter has just been dumped by his beautiful girlfriend. He goes on a bender and ends up passed out on a neighbor’s lawn. He is discovered in the morning by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who has awakened early to do her mother’s paper route, as she often does.
Aimee is sort of the anti-...