For most people, high school is a tumultuous time. Some consider it to be the time of their lives. Others liken it to the gates of hell, and graduation to the be moment of escape and freedom. Because everybody’s experience usually falls under one of these categories, watching a high school movie can feel timeless. The emotions that return are raw, the memories of ‘firsts’ come rushing back, and the magic of teenage love that was so consuming you could see nothing beyond it. It doesn’t matter how many days have passed since you graduated, the themes in high school movies will always be the same.
But it doesn’t always have to be about the unpopular girl getting a makeover and the star jock seeing her inner beauty for the first time. Or the popular girl, who is always a bitch, getting served with revenge and looking like a fool at prom. Celebrating the confusing, dramatic, heartbreaking, wonderful, miserable, effed up, beautiful journey that is ages 14 – 18 can be done with subtle execution. It’s rare though. And the movie that does it best is called, The Spectacular Now.
The Spectacular Now stars, Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and more. It’s currently playing in select cities, and in theaters nationwide on August 28th. And here are five reasons you need to go see it.
1) Sutter isn’t the star jock.
Miles Teller plays Sutter, a class clown that parties hard and doesn’t take life too seriously. He’s charismatic, funny, and well-liked. But just like he doesn’t take life too seriously (as shown by the always-full flask he keeps readily available), people don’t take him seriously either. His flaws are clear from the very beginning. Which makes him a real human being. Not some glittery, god-like example of a man that all the girls gawk at.
2) His ‘popular’ girlfriend isn’t the villain.
Sutter gets dumped by his perfect girlfriend right in the beginning, but she remains in his life throughout the story. They had fun together, but she wants a future, and he lives in the now. They clearly aren’t right for each other, but nothing earth-shattering breaks them apart or brings them back together. And even though there’s still an attraction between the two of them long after they break up, she isn’t evil. She doesn’t try to do anything to hurt his relationship with Aimee. You don’t want to punch her. Which is refreshing because, why should she be the villain? Real life doesn’t always have a villain.
3) Shailene Woodley’s character isn’t forced to change.
Speaking of Aimee (played by Shailene Woodley), the “normal” girl who finds Sutter passed out on someone’s front lawn. She is magnificent. The character is magnificent, and Shailene plays her magnificently. She’s an introvert, works hard for her family, loves to read, and isn’t an outcast or a teen queen. She’s just real. Which is why she doesn’t need the standard high school movie makeover. Because that doesn’t happen in real life anyway.
Sutter gets to know her, sees that she’s different, and falls in love with her for who she is. Not who she is with the glasses off and a tight dress on.
4) Kyle Chandler is amazing in it, and NOTHING like Coach Taylor.
It’s funny. I’ve seen Kyle Chandler in about 100 shows and movies at this point and yet, I cannot see him as anything other than Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I mean, can you blame me? Coach Taylor is the perfect man, perfect father, and perfect coach.
Not in this film though. Don’t let the familiar Southern drawl fool you. Kyle Chandler in The Spectacular Now is nothing like Coach Taylor. And because he’s such an amazing actor, you’re blown away by his performance anyway.
5) Real life mistakes lead to real life consequences.
But not in the way you’d expect to see them unfold in a film. Sutter’s flask makes enough appearances to be considered one of the main characters, so you know that something will come from his drinking. Much like real life though, it doesn’t happen in an immediate or dramatic fashion.
The beauty of this high school story is in the less exciting moments. It’s the driving around a small town when you’re bored. It’s the party on the beach with kegs that doesn’t end in arrests and violence, but rather just ends in a hangover. It’s the planning your future and the pressure of not knowing who you want to become. It’s the first time you have sex and you’re nervous and you fumble and despite all of the imperfect moments, you still feel like it was perfect because you were afraid and did it anyway.
That’s what high school was actually like. And it’s no wonder it’s been called, “A perfect movie,” by NY Daily News.
Because it is.