Aimee: I’d like to think there’s more to a person than just one thing.
Falling in love is never an easy process but, as I grow older, I tend to think it may have been easier to accomplish in my youth. When you’re young, if you’re fortunate, you don’t know real pain. You suffer and you anguish but you do so without any real concept of how deep hurt can reach. So when you find yourself face to face with someone who is looking back at you with the same curious eyes you’re looking at them with, there is less damage blocking your path toward each other. This may have been true once but in THE SPECTACULAR NOW, director, James Ponsoldt, shows us how the times have changed. The innocence that inherently comes with youth may no longer be enough to make love the simple gift it truly is.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW is a fairly familiar boy meets girl story, other than this particular boy meeting this particular girl when she finds him passed out on a neighbour’s lawn and wakes him from his drunken slumber. Finding an all new story to tell is not the point here, as Ponsoldt proves that there is still much to explore in the story we already know. Sutter (Miles Teller, who has been temporarily saved from more inane adolescent fare, like 21 AND OVER and PROJECT X) has just broken up with whom he considers to be the best girlfriend ever. While trying to get over her by visiting the bottom of many bottles, he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a responsible girl who knows him only by his reputation. Their connection is instantaneous and effortless; its acknowledging this connection that is the harder thing for them to do. Teller and Woodley are, for lack of a better choice of words, spectacular together. They communicate so much eagerness, attraction and simultaneous hesitation to each other in their interactions without even seemingly realizing it at times. THE SPECTACULAR NOW is a brilliant showcase for what is surely a very bright future for the pair of them.
Working from a decidedly less cynical, and far less complex script, from the writers of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, Ponsoldt, who is certainly on a hot streak having just given us the underrated SMASHED just last year, sees THE SPECTACULAR NOW as the beautiful moment it should be. He provides Sutter and Aimee with a safe space that feels natural and free. It’s a small town with modest means, which provides the people growing up there with a potential strength to go out into the world with. If it weren’t for this delicate and reassuring tone that Ponsoldt creates so superbly, I’m not certain the film would be successful. It is this relatable and inviting feeling that allows love to blossom. It is around us at all times in life as well; we just can’t see it as clearly as Ponsoldt does here. Like SMASHED, Ponsoldt demonstrates with his follow-up that he understands how difficult vulnerability can be to get past. He doesn’t force change or growth on anyone either; it is almost as if he allows his characters to find their own way and their own conclusions.
To know love, you must live in the present. THE SPECTACULAR NOW commemorates this moment but is also aware of just how complicated it can be to remain in that elusive place. Both Sutter and Aimee think they know what they’re getting themselves into when they feel that connection and decide to explore it. They figure out pretty quickly though that letting another person in means letting them see you for who you really are and, having never really searched their souls this extensively, their insecurities inevitably surface, taking them out of their moment. The depth of their feelings for each other almost seems like a constant surprise to them and this awe serves as a reminder to the audience that love is worth overcoming every fear for, no matter how heavy your feet have become since you first felt it. THE SPECTACULAR NOW will make you want to celebrate your own moment, as you should already be doing.
How many sheep would you give The Spectacular Now?