The Spectacular Now, dir. James Ponsoldt, scr. Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, based on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, st. Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Released at last year's Sundance Film Festival to widespread critical acclaim, The Spectacular Now treads a path similar to Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but minus the charm and humour that made a potential exercise in teen-dium watchable and moving, even. Actually, scratch that, a bit, because Woodley is rather wonderful here. Her second film after her head-turning role in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, her Aimee Finecky - thoughtful, shy, courteous, and one half of an implausible relationship that helms the story - is a textbook example of the power of reductive characterisation, a portrayal that's delicately reduced to its constituent elements. If only the film had been more about her than her narcissistic boyf. In truth, it's not really Teller's fault; his Sutter Keely, promptly turning us off from the off with his cockiness and casual misogyny, is just drawn that way, and there's much that's been written about his uncanny resemblance to a young John Cusack that surely would have translated into a more sympathetic character in a parallel universe. But what should be received as charm and endearing insouciance carries as irksome in the extreme. After breaking up with his girlfriend Cassidy (Larson), Sutter takes up with Aimee, seemingly with no other reason other than to reboundingly get into her pants and make his ex jealous. The delighted Aimee falls for his flimsy advances but somewhere during the film, and don't ask me where, this is suddenly genuinely reciprocated by Sutter who now seems to want a bona fide relationship. To round things off, there's some predictable home truthing when he realises his absent but pedestal-placed Dad is actually an arsehole and has been all along and maybe that's why Sutter pushes away everyone who's ever tried to... God, I can't even bring myself to finish typing the end of the sentence. I kept thinking of The Way Way Back, another film that chronicles furrowed adolescence, and one that tried half as hard and achieved twice as much.