Growing up is like staring at a blank document. You know, when you're procrastinating on finishing the college admissions essay that could potentially make or break your future chances at anything. It's fucking daunting. You feel like you've got a deadline to figure everything out, and if you miss it, you're destined to become a nobody. You'll end up an alcoholic working at Wal-Mart and dodging your 10-year reunion, due to the fear of complete embarrassment. Sounds a little melodramatic? Come on, remember how you were in high school? Everything was the end of the world.
That's when you'd pop in movies like The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, and Almost Famous. They were comforting nudges that reminded you everything was going to be OK. Who cares if you're stuck at home on a Friday night while every other cool kid is at party? There's a reason why people get so nostalgic for those films, and it's directly tied to the feeling of hopefulness you got when you were just a 17-year-old shit watching it. They showed there was more to life to look forward to.
Nowadays, a kid would be hard pressed to find the same kind of film to represent his generation that didn't include vegetarian vampires, shapeshifting creatures, and whimsical wizards. Sincerity over spectacle seems to triumph at the box office.
Luckily, however, there's a new film that finally calls for a return to the days of the great American coming-of-age movies: The Spectacular Now.
In director James Ponsoldt's take on Tim Tharp's young adult novel of the same name, fantasy is sidelined, relegated to the anime one of the characters reads. Adapted into a screenplay by (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the film doesn't shuttle its characters' pain in a dystopian anti-hero or masochistic bloodsucker. It does so through the everyday guy and girl, Sutter Keely and Aimee Finecky.
Played by an endearing Miles Teller and the refreshing Shailene Woodley, Sutter and Aimee find themselves falling in love at the end of the senior year of high school. The problem is, neither of them knows exactly what that means, as neither of them have figured out this whole business about loving themselves yet. Therein lies the greatness of The Spectacular Now—and just the reason why Teller and Woodler earned the Sundance Film Festival's U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting. More than a love story, the film is about confronting yourself head on, embracing all of your mess for what it is.
Complex recently sat down with Ponsoldt and a couple of the film's stars, Miles Teller and Dayo Okeniyi (who plays Marcus West, the boyfriend of Sutter's ex Cassidy, played by Brie Larson) about the making of the movie, their own high school days, and where The Spectacular Now (out in L.A. and N.Y. tomorrow, and nationwide on Aug. 23rd) fits in a YA landscape overrun by mythical creatures.
Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)