August 24, 2013

MOVIES: The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt, 2013)

A surprisingly fresh take on the last-year-of-high-school romance that deftly avoids virtually all of the cliches of the genre.

Sutter (Miles Teller) is a cocky boy who lacks ambition and is well on his way to a life of dissolute alcoholism; you can already see the puffiness settling on his face. Aimee (Shailene Woodley) is a smart girl has everything going for her except for self-confidence. (And both are far more interesting and complicated than those rather reductive summaries would suggest.) The relationship between them will, of course, change them both, but not necessarily in the ways or to the degree that you expect.

Both Teller and Woodley are terrific here; it's a particular joy to watch Woodley blossom once she gets some positive attention and encouragement. There are also fine small performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyle Chandler as Sutter's parents; Chandler gets to play a less noble father figure than we're used to from him, and he handles it nicely.

Absolutely delightful movie, and proof that there's always a new and interesting way to handle familiar material.

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