The wild, outspoken life-of-the-party guy who doesn’t give a shit and the quiet, charming, straight-A student fall in love in director James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now. He’s a budding alcoholic and she’s never had a boyfriend, and for the first 45 minutes or so, it’s unclear whether she’s bringing him up or he’s bringing her down. When it becomes clear, it’s painful watching these two get lost in each other, even as we keep rooting for them.

The Spectacular Now has been compared to John Hughes’ coming-of-age stories from the 1980s, but Hughes’ drama never went this deep, even at his best. Plus, the cast, especially leads Miles Teller (as Sutter) and Shailene Woodley (as Aimee), is better than any ensemble Hughes assembled.

That’s no dig on Hughes, it’s just that The Spectacular Now is so good it doesn’t really have a peer. Even when it dips into Afterschool Special territory—and that happens more than once—the leads bring it back, and they’re supported ably by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who starred in Ponsoldt’s Smashed), Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler and Bob Odenkirk. Teller and Woodley are wonderful, and The Spectacular Now is a must-see.


Directed by James Ponsoldt

With Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Jason Leigh

UA DeVargas Mall Cinema 6

95 min.