Sutter Keely is one of the most popular kids in high school whose effortless charm and witty sense of humor make him the life of any party. When he finds himself single after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend, Cassidy, he unexpectedly begins to fall for the quiet and reserved Aimee Finecky. While it begins as a harmless romance, Aimee's good natured demeanor forces Sutter to reflect on his lifestyle, and in turn confront his issues head-on, eventually growing into a better person. James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now is a fantastic "coming-of-age" story that stands head and shoulders above many similar films of the genre because of its haunting honesty about the confusion and passion of youth. Every character in The Spectacular Now is multidimensional and complex, like real human-beings, and Ponsoldt does a great job at capturing their faults and strengths. Sutter Keely is a character who is completely lost in the void of youthfulness, terrified of growing up, which makes him for lack of a better word, directionless. I really thought the film did a great job at exploring Sutter's family dynamics while doing so in a way that is both subtle yet powerfully resonant. In a way this film is as much a film about the importance of family as it's a coming of age tale, with both Aimee and Sutter coming from broken homes. The performances by both leads are certainly impressive, and have been praised endlessly, but I was also enamored with Ponsoldt's direction. I really liked Smash but with The Spectacular Now he really grows as a visual storyteller. Through the growing romance of Sutter and Aimee, Ponstoldt uses an abundance of close-ups that really capture the intimacy of the characters. Specifically with Aimee, he back-lights her a lot, and together with close-ups gives her this innocence that is shown not only through the acting and the dialogue but visually as well. James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now is one of the best films to come out of Sundance in recent years because it's never manipulative, and through subtle storytelling it shows the confusion and challenging time in a youth's life when they are forced to grow up.
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