“The Spectacular Now” Casting Review


Based on the novel of the same name by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now is a solid indie film that offers a painfully accurate glimpse at modern day high school teenagers and relationships. The movie’s plot is simple enough: it revolves around “Sutter”, a listless high school senior, as he comes to grips with his impending graduation, the truth about his estranged father, and his new growing feelings toward his girlfriend “Aimee”. This kind of narrative is light on plot twists and narrative gymnastics, and instead relies on its characters to drive the story. Fortunately, actors Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are more than capable of tackling this coming-of-age drama. 

Teller plays Sutter, the story’s leading man and narrator of the film. Sutter is your prototypical big fish in a small pond, and is known and loved by his school and hometown. On the outside, he seems to have it all (job, friends, popularity, etc.), but in actuality he’s just as lost and confused as the next high school kid. He is able to drown out these problems through alcohol and a perpetual nonchalant attitude, that is, until he crosses paths with Aimee, an innocent girl-next-door type who happens to be Sutter’s polar opposite. Played by Woodley, Aimee is smart, hardworking, and is always thinking about the needs of others rather than her own. Aimee is a positive influence for Sutter and ultimately forces him to re-examine his life.

As previously mentioned, this film is a character-driven piece, and Teller and Woodley are able to easily draw us into their slice of life, and experience their journey. At only 26 years old, Teller has been making a name for himself on the silver screen, and is becoming a consummate staple in any and all projects pertaining to adolescence and young adults. Similar to actor Chris Mintz-Plasse—if there’s a movie about teenagers and young guys in their twenties, it’s hard to not expect Teller to make some kind of appearance. Teller’s versatility as an actor has undoubtedly been aiding his stardom, and he seems at home in both comedic and dramatic pieces.

Woodley is perfectly paired with Teller and gives us yet another top notch performance as Sutter’s girlfriend. Woodley is in high demand right now and is easily one of Hollywood’s hottest up-and-coming actresses. Before her movie career began to take off, she was the lead on the popular ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but she truly got Hollywood’s attention with her breakout performance as George Clooney’s daughter in the critically acclaimed film The Descendants. That performance got her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and quickly skyrocketed her to the top of many people’s lists. Besides The Spectacular Now, she is also coming out as the lead in the features White Bird in a Blizzard, The Fault in Our Stars, and Divergent, and is currently attached to play the role of “Mary Jane” in The Amazing Spider-Man franchise with Andrew Garfield. Despite her forthcoming big studio features, Woodley’s performance in The Spectacular Now is a good return to form for the 21-year-old actress, and she easily shines as the sweet and seemingly fragile high school sweetheart to Teller’s Sutter.

As previously mentioned, The Spectacular Now is really all about the characters Sutter and Aimee, but there are several supporting actors worth noting. Actress Brie Larson plays “Cassidy”, Sutter’s on-again-off-again girlfriend (who gets permanently dumped when Aimee enters the mix). No slouch herself, Larson definitely makes her limited presence in the film known, and acts as a good “rival” to the more sweet and virginal Woodley. Larson is also another hot, up-and-coming young actress and has already been garnering a lot of buzz and critical acclaim in the upcoming indie film Short Term 12. Finally, Sutter’s parents are played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyle Chandler. Leigh is a veteran actress and brings that experience to play Sutter’s hardworking and burned out single mother. Chandler then gives a refreshing performance as Sutter’s estranged father, mainly because for once, he’s not playing the good guy. Chandler is convincing as the deadbeat dad, and lends his natural charisma and likeability to the character—which makes his many flaws and actions all the more gut-wrenching to watch on screen.

The Spectacular Now is a good example of how crucial casting is when you have a story that is purely character driven. The film gives an accurate representation of teenagers and relationships, and accomplishes this with actors that are so natural in their element it’s hard to believe that they are even acting. Although a lot of Miles Teller’s previous work has been rather comedic, he more than proves that he has the acting chops and can tackle darker, meatier roles in this film. Conversely, although Woodley already proved her acting chops in The Descendants, and is coming out in big studio features, it’s great to see her in a simple indie film where she can remind us why we all fell in love with her in the first place. Their performances are highlighted by the supporting cast, and are further proof that regardless of how large a role actually is in a film—it’s all about quality over quantity. All it takes is one good scene, and each character in this movie, from Teller to Chandler, are examples of how to make your time count—being in the “now” as the movie so aptly emphasizes.

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