The Spectacular Now


STARRING: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley

Playmates: Woodley and Teller

Shailene Woodley, all bent out of shape in The Descendants, is a sunbeam as high-school good girl Aimee in director James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now. “I like to think,” she tells class rogue Sutter (Teller), “that there’s more to a person than just one thing.” Sutter doesn’t necessarily see it that way. He lives in the liquor-seasoned moment, which was working out fine until his girlfriend (Brie Larson) dumps him and Aimee finds him passed out on her lawn. At 17, Sutter can still just about pull his lapses off. But that doesn’t make him an ideal prospect for a girl with a lot to lose.


Ponsoldt aims far higher than slacker-flick territory with the driving question of whether Sutter is too damaged by the absence of his errant dad (Kyle Chandler) to understand both the gift he has in Aimee and that he is rapidly reaching a pivotal fork in the road. Handled heavily, this could have been a drag. But Teller’s performance is so open and engaging that it takes some time to hit you how profoundly lost Sutter has become.