Recall the coming-of-age films in the past five years and what do you see? Vampires, werewolves, and teen mercenaries trying to survive in a dystopia—all characters detached from the real world. James Ponsoldt has personally made it his mission to bring the typical American teen back into the movies.
Ponsoldt: "We had a screening in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago and afterwards a woman came up to me and she was like, 'My daughter just wants to talk to you for a second. She's 14 and taking a summer film class.' Her daughter asked me about genre and which one I think this movie fits into. I get that people would probably call it a 'teen movie,' which sounds really generic and flattens it out, but I told her it was a romantic drama with some humor in it, and instead of adults starring in it, they're teenagers."
"I realized that my favorite movies are about young people. Breaking Away, Splendor in the Grass, The Last Picture Show, and even Say Anything—they’re really complicated. They’re just simple stories but about complicated people dealing with real things. It doesn’t patronize them. It doesn’t simplify or dumb down the story just because their characters are 16 or 17. In fact, I think it's tougher to be living in that time. You get your heart broken but you don’t have the life experience to contextualize it and know that you’ll get over it. You think that you’re gonna die. So it's bigger than life."
"The success last year of Perks of Being a Wallflower was kind of a heads up to a lot of studios that are making vampire or werewolves movies that young audiences are actually smart and really want to see their lives depicted with honesty and integrity. I hope they’ll be more films like this. They are really important to find when you’re in your teenage years cause I think that they can help save your life. You want to feel less alone in the world. You want to feel that someone else is dealing with all the crap you’re dealing with. It's really important to have those touchstones. My hope is that The Spectacular Now becomes one of them."
Teller: "It's not like Twilight or Harry Potter or any one of those fantasy films about teenagers. They're entertaining. I mean, who doesn't love those? But I think The Spectacular Now is one of the first movies to deal with teenagers honestly in a long time. There's no escapism. It's real and in your face."