Yes, The Spectacular Now is just as good as everyone’s been saying it is since it debuted at Sundance this past winter. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller shine as Aimee and Sutter and they most certainly deserve the Sundance Special Jury Prize for Acting that they won for this film. At no point in the movie did they come off as anything but real, live teenagers trying to navigate their relationship. Like any movie, there are a few moments where you have to suspend your belief and just go with it — but for the most part, it came off as an engaging and realistic film about two teenagers falling in love. Their acting truly seemed effortless and that’s something I rarely say after having seen a movie about young love.
As someone who grew up on She’s All That, Never Been Kissed and 10 Things I Hate About You, I’m not exactly used to watching realistic teen movies. And there were so many moments in The Spectacular Now where I worried they’d veer off into that territory. But they didn’t. Sutter’s popular and Aimee’s not, but at no point did they turn her into a social pariah. Sutter isn’t a heroic rebel for dating her and Aimee’s not a loser’s legend for dating him. They’re just an unlikely couple who happen to find out that they have more in common than than they think. It’s not so much opposites attract as it is “I like you because you’re you.” Sure their first kiss might not be set to Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”, but most people’s first kiss doesn’t involve themed music and a perfectly lit patio.
First everythings are usually messy and weird and an odd combination of exciting and disappointing. That’s the first thing I thought after I lost my virginity. “Oh, okay, that’s that then. Well, uh thank you, for putting that there and yeah. We should do this again. No, you’re shaking your head no? Yes? Are you awake? I love you.” We didn’t lay underneath a perfectly positioned sheet and whisper sweet nothings to each other and we most certainly didn’t look like we did before we got down and dirty. Between my eyes and my hair, I think he probably had to do a double-take and make sure that he didn’t accidentally sleep with a rabid raccoon.
While Aimee didn’t look quite as unshowered-chic as I did after losing her virginity, she did look just as hesicited right before she went for it. That’s a combination of hesitant and excited. You know the moment when you still believe that losing your virginity will change everything. While Sutter’s clearly not a virgin when he has sex with Aimee, he still behaves like a normal teenage boy. Yes the scene’s super sweet and yes it’s still a move, but there’s something about it that just seemed so incredibly realistic. For one, Sutter grabbed a condom. How often do we see that happen in movies? It’s usually one amazing flow from being dressed to stripping down to having sex. Even though in real life, there’s always that moment where you have to get the condom, open the condom and put on the condom. Don’t even get me started on the conversations where you have to discuss why he needs to wear a condom or when he realizes he doesn’t’ have one or any of the other things that go down between “we should have sex tonight” and “we’re actually having sex tonight.”
There’s no point during the scene where Aimee throws back her head and orgasms uncontrollably. Nor is there a montage of the two of them doing it in every which way that ends with them gasping for air on the floor. Instead they’re in a typical teenager’s bedroom. It’s light out and they’re doing it missionary style. Which is normal and expected and a nice reminder to teens that it isn’t always fireworks the first time. However that doesn’t mean Aimee doesn’t enjoy herself and doesn’t want to do it again. We’re not in the land of Secret Life of the American Teenager anymore and there aren’t dire consequences for having teen sex. Like so many of us learned, it’s just sex. It certainly changes things, but it most certainly does not change everything.
Throughout Shailene’s press tour over the past few weeks, she keeps saying that the movie’s realism is what makes it so unique and so worth watching.
“I think it’s the most authentic coming of age movie that we’ve had in about twenty years…it’s just such a real look at what adolescents are doing today, the way they interact with their parents and they way they interact with each other, there’s no glamour, they’re not trying to make it something that it’s not.”
After having seen it, I can’t help but agree with her. Even though I’m way beyond my teen years, I couldn’t help but feel that the movie resonated with not only my high school self as well as my present self. Based on the movie’s 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it would appear that I’m not the only one who feels that way. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s make-up free and it’s hopefully going to influence the way that Hollywood presents teen relationships in the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your first kiss will be special because of the guy — and not because you’re waiting in the middle of a pitcher’s mound for your creepy English teacher to get over himself and show up in time.