Teenage romance depicted honestly in film adaptation

Alexa Addleman

Courtesy of A24 Films
Courtesy of A24 Films

This is not a teen romance movie. This is not a chick flick. It is certainly not based on a Nicholas Sparks book.

No, The Spectacular Now is a movie about two real high school seniors with realistic lives, ignorance, and dreams. Narrated by the endearing and whisky-dependent  Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), the story told has a moral with a lot of validity: high school is a crazy, stupid, beautiful time.

The plot is fairly simple, dabbling in themes of frayed family relationships and planning for the future, without typical sensationalism. It’s spring of senior year, and exciting times lay in wait – Prom, graduation, and for most students, leaving for college. But not for Sutter.

He believes in living in the “now” and in the infinite possibilities that lie in a second, minute, or night. He has gloriously created his future at the bottom of his flask, which always ends up empty. It’s always a good time with Sutter, but his inability to be serious is what cost him his beautiful ex-girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson).

However, the tale really begins when Sutter’s reckless life gains a voice of reason from above – standing over him, that is, and attempting to wake him from his deep sleep on her front lawn. Hereafter begins a strangely believable friendship between good-girl Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) and the self-proclaimed “Sutterman.”

Sutter takes Aimee on as a charity case, boasting that he’ll somehow save her from her sheltered cave of intellectual endeavors. Little does he know he could stand to learn a lot more from her than he could imagine. As they become more attached to each other’s company, the shining future that Aimee has carefully mapped out begins to get sucked in to Sutter’s infinite “now.” In their sweet ignorance, they do not comprehend the damage they are doing to each other.

However, the real winner in the truth department is the paper version. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp offers ten times more insight into how Sutter operates than the movie. Though Sutter’s actions often speak for themselves, his commentary in the book often doesn’t quite match up with what he actually does, illustrating the disconnect between what he knows to be true and what is actually true. It is obvious to the reader that Sutter has an alcohol problem, but the lack of confrontation he gets from others just encourages his habits. Plus, in the book, when his friends do stage an intervention, it only makes him defensive.

As both the book and the movie approach their ends, the question of Sutter’s future needs to be answered. He must make a decision about what to do with Aimee, and subsequently, himself. While the movie ends abruptly and leaves a lasting feeling of uncertainty, the ending in the book picks Sutter’s mind one last time and gives a final view of his blissful ignorance. People don’t change, not how those close to him wanted him to. He exists in his own spectacular delusion, and though the flaws can be seen from outside, Sutter is perfectly content with staying there forever.

“Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now.” The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was officially released on Aug. 2, though at a limited number of theaters. It runs for 100 minutes.