Saturday, 14 September 2013

Spectacular, spectacular

Summer is almost over. The summer blockbusters have come and gone; some very good, some not so good.

Let me tell you about the best movie released this summer. With apologies to Mr. Gatsby, Captain Kirk, Superman, Woody Allen and the minions, it is called The Spectacular Now, and it is aptly named. It is Spectacular, and you should go see it right NOW.


There are no characters in this movie; just people. You know these people. I know these people. I went to high school with these people. They are my friends; my family.

This is only the third movie from director James Ponsoldt. I am unfamiliar with his first two well-received films (Off the Black in 2006, and Smashed in 2012), but he shows a poise and expertise at pacing that many directors with 10 times his portfolio could only dream of.

The star of the show is Shailene Woodley. You don't know who that is? You obviously didn't see The Descendants, a film she absolutely stole from acting heavyweights George Clooney, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster, amongst others.

You don't know who she is? You will. She's about to star in Divergent, which I hear is going to be the next big thing in "Young Adult entertainment". It's not that type of movie that is going to define her, though, any more than Hermione Granger is going to define Emma Watson's career, or Katniss Everdeen is going to define Jennifer Lawrence's career, or Lois Lane will define Amy Adams'. I can only think of one adjective to describe her: mesmerizing. She is as convincing as an awkward, shy wallflower in this film as she was as a polar opposite little bitch in The Descendants. She will have an Oscar nomination or two before she's 30 (she is just shy of 24 as I write this) if she picks the right films, and her first two tend to make me believe she will. She deserves a nod for THIS film (as she did for the Descendants); but given the summer release and the modest box office, I'm going to guess she will be overlooked. If there are any Academy members reading this (hey, it's not impossible, Terry David Mulligan and Britney Spears follow me on Twitter, and they both know some members for sure!!), don't forget her when you go to cast your ballot. I cannot imagine there will be a better performance this year.

Woodley is not alone in her excellence here. Relative newcomer Miles Teller shines as the male lead, Sutter,  a confident, likeable but flawed senior who really doesn't know what he wants or who he wants, or if he wants anything at all. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who knows a little something about being an excellent young actress, is all grown up and adds gravitas in a small but important role as Sutter's mother. Kyle Chandler, who's name you may not immediately know but who's face will have you saying "oh yeah, I know him, he was in that movie....", is pitch-perfect as Sutter's estranged father, who's story tells a lot about where Sutter came from, and where he is headed.

There is a moment in this film, and I will not spoil it here by giving details, that is so shocking that the audience gasped in unison; followed by everyone sitting back in their seats in stunned silence. It was as powerful a single moment as I have seen on film in recent memory.

I don't often write blog posts about one specific movie. I have rated this movie at 4.5 stars, and I'll tell you, I damn well considered making it 5. I am stingy with the stars; I cannot remember the last movie I rated 5/5. It might have been Schindler's List. Anyway, I reserve those ratings for the absolute best of the best. Movies that are as perfect as movies can be. This one comes pretty damn close. What keeps it from getting a "perfect" grade? If there is one slip up here, it's that the final act is slightly rushed, and could have used another 10-15 minutes of fleshing out. Believe me that is a minor quibble. The film checks in at 1 hour, 35 minutes, but it felt like about 20. I was truly irritated when it ended.

The Spectacular Now immediately rockets to #1 on my list of my top 10 movies of 2013 (shameless self-promotion: the entire list is here: http://diamonddean.tripod.com/movies.html). It will still be there at the end of the year. I truly, truly hope I am wrong about that last statement; because if I get to see a movie BETTER than this one?? Well, that would truly be a thrill. We would have to be in "second-coming-of-Citizen-Kane" territory.

The Spectacular Now is, as I write this, at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. There are 11 negative reviews, none by anyone I've ever heard of. Those 11 'critics' should immediately be forced to turn in their pens or computers, and never write a movie review again.

Friends, if you love movies like I do, see this movie. If you have to wait until it hits VOD or Blu-Ray, so be it, but I urge you to seek it out and see it on the big screen. This movie deserves more than the ~$5M box office it is going to do, especially when you consider that garbage like The Smurfs 2 is hovering around $68M. Different audiences, I get that, but right is right.

Find it, friends. You will not be disappointed.