DVD Review - The Spectacular Now
Based on a novel by Tim Tharp, James Ponsaldt directed. He didn't write the screenplay, but Ponsaldt's previous film Smashed also dealt with alcoholism. Those characters were older. Ponsaldt handling alcoholism in a younger character, a teenager in fact, is a bit riskier. I think it fails because by the end Sutter doesn't acknowledge his alcoholism or that the problems from which will persist despite the movie's seemingly hopeful ending.
I don't even know why the alcoholism was even a factor here. The movie might have been better if that whole factor were simply removed all together. Sutter already has enough issues. One of which is an absentee father, played by Kyle Chandler. Even though the point is made in the one scene Chandler has to show why his character is absentee and he nails it, I would've preferred the filmmakers to draw that out and give Chandler more to do.
The alcoholism stuff were baffling because it goes nowhere and then is dismissed. Obviously, Sutter's drinking is a problem. He wakes up on the lawn of a random person's house. He blacks out and doesn't remember doing things. He drives drunk and he really has no consequences befall him for any of his actions.
Toward the end, Sutter's boss at his job threaten to fire him, unless he stopped showing up drunk, and Sutter refuses. His boss knows Sutter is still in high school, so he knows it's a serious problem. Yet, his boss doesn't think to talk to Sutter's mom, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, or talk to anyone to help Sutter.
The movie does everything to get us to like Sutter by first bombarding with people who can't help but fall for Sutter's charm, even Marcus, played by Dayo Okeniyi, the new boyfriend of Amy who can see that Sutter is trying to get back with Amy. Sutter tries to steal Marcus' girlfriend and yet Marcus ends up liking him. This alone would've been a fine dynamic, but it keeps happening. It gets so bad that Sutter almost gets someone killed and that person still likes and wants to be around him, and that's when the movie lost me.
The movie makes you think that the weight of what he's doing to people, particularly the young girls around him, might affect and change Sutter. In a sense, it does but not necessarily in a substantial way. If the movie had ended at the bus station, which becomes a self-inflicted punishment he gives to himself, all my problems would have been rectified. Yet, the very last scene reverses the bus station scene and gives the movie a happier, Hollywood-like ending, which turned me off.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.