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The Spectacular Now

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The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Produced by
  • Tom McNulty
  • Shawn Levy
  • Michelle Krumm
  • Andrew Lauren
Screenplay by
Based on The Spectacular Now 
by Tim Tharp
Music by Rob Simonsen
Cinematography Jess Hall
Edited by Darrin Navarro
  • Andrew Lauren Productions
  • 21 Laps
  • Global Produce
Distributed by A24[1]
Release dates
  • January 18, 2013 (2013-01-18) (Sundance)
  • August 2, 2013 (2013-08-02) (United States, limited)
Running time 95 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.5 million[3]
Box office $6,918,591[4]

The Spectacular Now is a 2013 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by James Ponsoldt, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Tim Tharp. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered critical acclaim.


Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a high school senior, charming and self-possessed, he’s the life of the party, loves his job at a men’s clothing store, and has no plans for the future. He is also a budding alcoholic. His girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), unable to cope with his alcoholism and lack of ambition, decides to dump him. Drinking to numb his pain, Sutter is woken up on a stranger's lawn by Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), a girl who wears no makeup and reads science fiction and manga during her free time. Sutter helps her with her paper route, and ultimately invites her to have lunch with him.

Sutter, struggling with geometry, asks Aimee to tutor him, ultimately doing so in order to get closer with her. He invites her to a party, but temporarily loses interest when he sees Cassidy and asks her to have a drink with him. Cassidy soon leaves with her boyfriend Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), and Sutter redirects his attention to Aimee. He introduces her to alcohol, and the two go for a walk. During the walk, Aimee brings up getting accepted into college in Philadelphia, but does not feel as though she will be able to go because she must take care of her demanding mother. Sutter teaches Aimee to stand up to her mom, and the two kiss.

When he wakes up the next morning, Sutter realizes that he asked Aimee to prom while drunk, and instant messages Cassidy to hang out. Cassidy breaks down, tearfully telling Sutter that she can no longer avoid her future and that she needs to grow up, even if he does not. Marcus later confronts Sutter asking what is going on with him and Cassidy. Sutter calms him down reassuring him Cassidy is done with him. Marcus asks a surprised Sutter why Cassidy cannot like him in the same way that she does with Sutter. Sutter tells him he and Cassidy are perfect for each other and he does not need to try and be like him. Marcus thanks him for the advice and says he is not the joke everyone thinks.

Sutter avoids Aimee knowing he can't commit to taking her to prom. Aimee's friend Krystal (Kaitlyn Dever) tells him not to treat Aimee badly as she is a genuinely good person and doesn't need Sutter hurting her. Sutter takes her advice on board and asks Aimee to dinner with his estranged sister Holly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). At the dinner Aimee talks frankly about the death of her father and her dreams of a perfect marriage, charming everyone including Sutter. Sutter and Aimee begin to get serious, having sex for the first time. Sutter buys Aimee a flask as a gift when they attend prom, and despite a moment where Sutter dances with Cassidy, their night goes well. She tells him that she stood up to her mom and is going to Philadelphia, inviting him to live with her and attend a Junior College.

Sutter, after numerous attempts to get his father's phone number from his mom, receives it from his sister and plans to spend a day with his dad. He brings Aimee with him, and they meet him at a motel just as he is leaving for the bar and invites the two to join him. Sutter's father shares similar hedonistic views of life as Sutter, but after revealing that he left his mother (instead of being kicked out as Sutter had thought previously), he leaves to go off with a woman. Sutter is forced to pay the tab and wait for his dad to return. After waiting for an hour they return to the bar to see that Sutter's dad has forgotten about them and is back to drinking with his friends. Angry and drunk, Sutter snaps at Aimee when she attempts to comfort him, confessing her love for him. Sutter forces her to get out of the car, and she is hit by an oncoming car.

Aimee comes out of the accident with only a broken arm, and forgives Sutter for the incident. Sutter, however, has clearly been damaged by his experiences with his father, and his drinking worsens. After graduation Cassidy informs Sutter she is going to California with Marcus. Sutter suggests he pay them a visit but Cassidy declines, telling him she must stay out of his influence for her own good. His boss, Dan (Bob Odenkirk) tells him that he will be letting go of one of his clerks. He informs Sutter that he wants him to work at the store, but Sutter must promise never to come in intoxicated again. Sutter honestly states that he does not feel he is capable of keeping such a promise and shakes a disappointed and concerned Dan's hand. He then goes out for a night at the bar, leaving Aimee to get on the bus to Philadelphia by herself, heartbroken.

Sutter crashes into his mailbox after a night of heavy drinking and tearfully breaks down in front of his mom, saying he is exactly like his father and that he is an awful person. His mother assures Sutter he is not like his father as he has the biggest heart of anyone she knows. Finally able to recognize that he is his own greatest limitation, Sutter commits himself to becoming a more mature and responsible person. He drives to Philadelphia and finds Aimee as she is leaving class. Aimee looks at him, begins to smile, and the screen cuts to black.



[5] While the novel is set in Oklahoma, director James Ponsoldt preferred to shoot in his hometown;[5] he explained: "The script didn't identify where it was set – the setting just wasn't a big city. It felt vaguely suburban – or kind of like a college town. It seemed to me that the script had a sense of place in the way that Breaking Away did. Athens was such an obvious candidate as a setting to shoot the film in – and it was really the only place I wanted to make the film. Filming in Athens was incredibly meaningful to me. We shot in the streets and houses of my childhood!"[6]


Box office

The Spectacular Now opened in Limited release in North America on August 2, 2013 in 4 theaters and grossed $197,415 with an average of $49,354 per theater and ranking #30 at the box office. The film's wide release was in 770 theaters and it ended up earning $6,854,611 domestically and $63,980 elsewhere for a total of $6,918,591, above its estimated $2.5 million budget.[7][8]

Critical response

The Spectacular Now was critically acclaimed at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Based on 148 critic reviews, it obtained a "Certified Fresh" score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 7.8 out of 10. The critical consensus states "The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings."[9] At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 82 out of 100 based on 42 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[10]'

The film was one of the last ever reviews filed by Roger Ebert and he gave the film four out of four stars, stating in his review: "Here is a lovely film about two high school seniors who look, speak and feel like real 18-year-old middle-American human beings. Do you have any idea how rare that is? They aren't crippled by irony. They aren't speeded up into cartoons. Their sex lives aren't insulted by scenes that treat them cheaply... What an affecting film this is. It respects its characters and doesn't use them for its own shabby purposes. How deeply we care about them. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are so there. Being young is a solemn business when you really care about someone. Teller has a touch of John Cusack in his "Say Anything" period. Woodley is beautiful in a real person sort of way, studying him with concern, and then that warm smile. We have gone through senior year with these two. We have known them. We have been them."[11]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film four stars out of four, which he described as "the best American movie of the year so far" and summarized his review by adding, "The Spectacular Now will bring you back to that time in your life when you were trying to soak in every moment, because everyone told you there’s nothing better than your last year in high school."[12] In The Hollywood Reporter, critic Todd McCarthy called the film "a sincere, refreshingly unaffected look at teenagers and their attitudes about the future... Ordinary in some ways and extraordinary in others, The Spectacular Now benefits from an exceptional feel for its main characters on the parts of the director and lead actors."[13]

Dana Stevens of Slate also praised both the leads, commenting that "Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley have such a disarmingly direct and spontaneous connection as actors that Sutter and Aimee almost immediately come to seem like a couple you've known (or been part of) at some point in your life... The Spectacular Now captures the beauty and scariness and lacerating intensity of first love"[14] Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman described it as "one of the rare truly soulful and authentic teen movies." He compared it favorably to Say Anything... and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, saying "like them, it’s a movie about the experience of being caught on the cusp and truly not knowing which way you’ll land."[15]

In Variety, critic Rob Nelson wrote, "The scars and blemishes on the faces of the high-school lovers in The Spectacular Now are beautifully emblematic of director James Ponsoldt's bid to bring the American teen movie back to some semblance of reality, a bid that pays off spectacularly indeed."[16] Cinema Blend called it "the rare Sundance coming-of-age story that feels like it matters,"[17] adding, "The Spectacular Now is an instant MVP of the first half of the festival, with potential breakout hit written all over it... you'll be hearing a lot about this one down the road, and it's got the goods to live up to the hype." Phoebe Reilly of Spin called the film "the next great teen movie" and "truly remarkable". She acclaimed Teller and Woodley for their "absurdly natural performances", with Sutter "uniquely irresistible" and Aimee "a perfect repertoire of nervous giggles and awkward mannerisms."[18]


At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, The Spectacular Now received the Special Jury Award for Acting.[19]

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[20] December 16, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality or Seduction Award Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics[21][22] January 2, 2014 Breakthrough Film Artist Brie Larson (also for Don Jon and Short Term 12) Runner-up
Most Overlooked Film The Spectacular Now Nominated
Gotham Awards[23] December 2, 2013 Best Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[24] March 1, 2014 Best Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Best Female Lead Shailene Woodley Nominated
Indiana Film Critics Association[25] December 16, 2013 Best Picture The Spectacular Now Nominated
Best Actor Miles Teller Nominated
Best Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
National Board of Review[26] December 4, 2013 Top Ten Independent Films The Spectacular Now Won
North Carolina Film Critics Association[27] January 12, 2014 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society[28][29] December 17, 2013 The Overlooked Film of the Year The Spectacular Now Won
San Diego Film Critics Society[30] December 11, 2013 Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[31] December 15, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Seattle International Film Festival[32] June 9, 2013 Youth Jury Award for Best FutureWave Feature The Spectacular Now Won
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[33] December 16, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Sundance Film Festival January 26, 2013 Special Jury Award for Acting Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley Won
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic James Ponsoldt Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[34] December 9, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated


  1. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 21, 2013). "'"Sundance: A24 Buys ‘The Spectacular Now.  
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The Spectacular Now (2013) - International Box Office Results".  
  5. ^ a b Gallant, Andre (June 28, 2012). "New film preps to shoot in Athens".  
  6. ^ Wardell, Gabe (January 31, 2013). "Catching up with Georgia filmmaker James Ponsoldt, whose latest feature just conquered Sundance".  
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Spectacular Now Rotten Tomatoes". 
  10. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Metacritic". 
  11. ^ Roger Ebert (August 2, 2013). "The Spectacular Now". Retrieved October 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Richard Roeper review". 
  13. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 20, 2013). "The Spectacular Now: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Slate review". 
  15. ^ "The Spectacular Now - EW review". 
  16. ^ Nelson, Rob (January 19, 2013). """Review: "The Spectacular Now.  
  17. ^ Rich, Katey (January 19, 2013). "The Spectacular Now: The Rare Sundance Coming-Of-Age Story That Feels Like It Matters". Cinema Blend. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ Reilly, Phoebe (January 20, 2013). "'"The Next Great Teen Movie Premieres at Sundance: 'The Spectacular Now.  
  19. ^ "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Feature Film Awards". January 26, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  20. ^ "2013 EDA Award Nominees".  
  21. ^ Rutecki, Jared (December 29, 2013). "Central Ohio Film Critics announce awards nominees".  
  22. ^ "Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) - Awards: 2013". January 2, 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  23. ^ Pond, Steve (October 24, 2013). "’12 Years a Slave’ Leads Gotham Awards Nominations". The Wrap. Retrieved December 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ Kilday, Gregg (November 26, 2013). 12 Years a Slave,' 'Nebraska' Dominate Spirit Nominations"'".  
  25. ^ Adams, Ryan (December 16, 2013). "Indiana Film Journalists Awards". Awards Daily. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  26. ^ "NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW ANNOUNCES 2013 AWARD WINNERS". The National Board of Review. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  27. ^ Lodge, Guy (January 5, 2014). "2013 North Carolina Film Critics' Association nominations".  
  28. ^ Adams, Ryan (December 10, 2013). "Phoenix Film Critics Society nominations". AwardsDaily. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2013 Awards".  
  30. ^ Posner, Jay (December 11, 2013). "SD Film Critics name best of 2013".  
  31. ^ Stone, Sasha (December 13, 2013). "San Francisco Film Critics Nominations". Awards Daily. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  33. ^ Venhaus, Lynn (December 9, 2013). "St. Louis Film Critics choose their award nominees".  
  34. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 8, 2013). 12 Years a Slave' and 'Her' lead the way with Washington D.C. critics nominations"'".  

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