Directed by James Ponsoldt
Written by Michael H Weber, based on the novel by Tim Tharp
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Lee, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larsen

Sutter (Teller) is a high school senior unable to picture a future that has him in it. He can’t finish his college aps, he can’t do what he needs to do to pass geometry, or keep a job, or keep his girlfriend (Brie Larsen). She tells him, in fact, his specialty is in turning girls into lushes. And that’s because he’s one, steadily drinking all day from his hidden flask.

One night he lands on the lawn of a girl (Woodley), who doesn’t see through him at all. She’s a good student with family issues of her own, who is simply too innocent , loving and kind not to entice him. Not that he is in the least malevolent—just a drunk at eighteen. Soon she is drinking along with him.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW strips away the clichés you might expect. Some might criticize the character of Aimee for being too naïve to exist in 2013, but the writing and direction instead makes us believe in her reaction to a cute boy showing her attention. It also makes us believe that both genetics and environment might produce a boy like Sutter. And some might question the character of Sutter’s mother, (Jason Leigh). Why wasn’t she aware of his problems earlier? But an overworked single Mom might only see the charm her son offers up to her so willingly and tell herself that everything is okay. Sutter is a con man all right. But he is mostly conning himself.

This is a small film that occasionally suffers from its low budget. But it’s an important coming of age story that wears its heart on its sleeve. Beautifully acted and directed.

Patti Abbott