Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Spectacular Now

The_Spectacular_Now_4

One of the great dangers of cinema is the ability to present a picture of reality that is completely untrue. I am not talking about false realities like Narnia, the Star Trek Enterprise, Middle Earth, etc. False realities can be very helpful in exploring ethical questions. Myths, legends, and fairy tales are often great sources of truth and good morals. The danger of cinema is in presenting a common reality as something it is not. For instance, a romantic drama may leave a person with the false impression that everyone has a soul mate. Films with high school and college settings often give the impression that all partying is fun and there are little or no consequences to indulging all of one’s pleasures. These films send a message that high school and college are all about partying and having a good time. They make a person believe that this is what everyone does, at least all the cool people, and they never show anyone getting hurt. They present a picture of reality that is not exactly true.

The refreshing thing about The Spectacular Now is that it does not conform to any prefabricated notions of what a coming of age story should be. The Spectacular Now is a riveting teenage drama of a different nature. It seeks to present adolescence in a realistic way and it succeeds in doing so. Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) are ordinary teenagers with real-life problems. The film begins with Sutter giving us the details of his breakup with Cassidy (Brie Larson). He is a funny and likable guy. We feel sorry about his break-up but we have confidence that he will make it and he does in a sense. He quickly begins to date Aimee, a somewhat shy and quiet girl that has gone unnoticed by many of the other students. We are drawn into their relationship and we begin to root for Sutter and Aimee. Sure there are hints of unhealthy practices in Sutter’s life but he is a teenager and we all made mistakes back then. It is not until after the audience really begins to root for Sutter and Aimee that we begin to see just how destructive some of Sutter’s behaviors really are.

The Spectacular Now is more than a morality lesson about a teenager with a few bad habits. The characters are rich and complex. They have lives, families, and in some cases plans for the future. Aimee is a bright student with lots of potential, but her mom is holding her back. Cassidy has feelings for Sutter even after they break up, but she recognizes some of his weaknesses before anyone else does. Sutter’s father is not a part of his life and he doesn’t know why. He has lived most of his life with an empty void. Will these young adults be able to overcome the surmounting obstacles in their lives? This is more intriguing than a film that ignores reality and becomes a movie based on the director’s fantasies or the audience’s desires. The Spectacular Now is a powerful story that gives us an insight into what life is like for some American teenagers. Are the characters in this film representative of all teenagers in America? Absolutely not but it presents a reality that is often lacking in many coming of age stories.

The Spectacular Now is funny and intriguing. It is a well made film with outstanding performances, especially from the two young stars. It is also a film that was hard to watch at times. The film takes you on a roller coaster ride. As you begin to care for these individuals you witness them get hurt and sometimes hurt themselves. The audience becomes a caring parent who witnesses destructive behaviors but cannot do anything about it. We must sit back and see how these lives will turn out. We watch on the edge of our seats hoping someone like Sutter will learn from his mistakes.

Although this film is about high school students, it is very much an adult film. It contains strong language, sexual situations, and alcohol use. Although it does contain adult material and is primarily about teenagers dealing with adult situations it does have some redeeming values. It is perhaps the best film I have seen on the subject of teenage alcoholism. It does not glamorize or paint a pretty picture of alcohol abuse in any way. In a way it helps us, the viewer, to understand the complexities some teenagers live with. Growing up is hard. It is even harder when a parent is out of the picture or doesn’t care. The Spectacular Now reminds us of the pressures and difficulties that some teens face. It does not sugar coat adolescence and it is a great film because it seeks to present us with the truth.

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