The Spectacular Meh
Melissa crawls out from her “two movies a year” hovel to review the film adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel, The Spectacular Now.
I’ve been looking forward to the movie adaptation of The Spectacular Now ever since I read the novel while lounging in the grass at a country concert, waiting for Hunter Hayes. (Cougar status what?) Tim Tharp’s novel overflows with voice, humor, and terrific characters across the board. As I’m sure others have said, it has those Catcher in the Rye hues.
(Unpopular declaration: I read CitR in a day. I liked it. And I can’t for the life of me remember anything about it.)
But the movie premiered in cities not near me (UGH, so indie of you, movie), and the closest theater I could find was in Brooklyn. Honestly, I’m not trekking into Brooklyn if I don’t have to. Until this weekend, when it popped up a reasonable distance away. The reviews were glowing. Sundance loved it. Many IMDB lovers loved it. So I was pumped and ready. Looking for, dare I say it, another Silver Linings Playbook (swoon).
Remember what I said about voice, humor, and terrific characters?
Yeah. They were absent from the adaptation.
It’s just…there’s not much action in the book, and that’s cool because we’re so hooked on the voice. But it doesn’t translate here. Miles Teller does a nice job of channeling a younger John Cusack, and he’s enjoyable as our hero. But the humor, the sense that he’s a juggernaut in his tiny universe, the way everyone orbits around him — all of that is gone. We’re supposed to believe that this popular guy chooses the awkward girl, when in reality, we see one or two meaningless interactions with his “best friend,” and then Sutter’s pretty much…friendless. Okay.
There are the random appearances by his ex, Cassidy, that feel like interruptions hoping to add to the drama. She, too, is thinly developed. She and Ricky have arcs in the novel that reveal to Sutter just how far he’s being left behind, but here, it’s all, “They’re dating other people oh okay bye.” (Also, Marcus played by Thresh from The Hunger Games? Super yum. Definitely would have liked to have seen more from him…LIKE THE BOOK.)
Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley, is almost tragically naive in the novel. Here, she giggles. A lot. And the two leads stare at each other and giggle. A lot. Reviews praise the dialogue as “realistic,” yet I can’t help but think that there’s a reason novels, et. al. don’t just transcribe people talking — because it’s boring and there’s filler. It doesn’t make for compelling cinema. If I wanted to hear realistic teen dialogue, I could go stand in the theater lobby. (There were scant few teens in the theater itself.)
Is it a bad movie? Nah. You may well enjoy it. Is it worthy of Oscar buzz? To paraphrase from the movie script: