Friday, September 6, 2013

The Spectacular Now

The imaginary pitch: Cross Say Anything 
with The Days of Wine and Roses

Miller Teller as Sutter Keely, the Functioning Alcoholic
     People who drink – and I don’t mean lightweights or social drinkers – like to be around other people who drink.  As adults, it can become the dividing line in potential relationships.  The moment that Sutter Keely, played winningly by Miller Teller, pulled out a hip flask, my heart sank.  Anyone
I’ve known that had a hip flask was a functioning alcoholic.  I knew the movie was going to be about a teenager who drank, but I didn’t know it was going to be about a teenager who is a functioning alcoholic.  Unlike a sloppy alcoholic, the functioning alcoholic is generally intelligent or charming and can reel in a social drinker or non-imbiber before he or she knows the full extent of the problem.  Sometimes, as Sutter admits late in the movie, they can honestly assess themselves, but it doesn’t mean they’ll do anything about it.

     The Spectacular Now shows just where Sutter might end up at forty, namely on a bar stool spinning a bunch of silly tales for other alcoholics, functioning or sloppy.  They love this ‘camaraderie’ that can turn vicious or violent and yes I know whereof I speak.  To the non-drinker or social drinker, this milieu seems stupid or dangerous.  When he gives the girl he likes, though he isn’t sure whether it’s a rebound or a potential real romance, a hip flask as a gift, I wanted to pull her away from that car and drag her home.  Since that girl, Aimee Finecky, has self esteem issues that she’s hidden by working hard, studying hard, and keeping out of the limelight, she brightens because one of the popular kids takes an interest in her.  And Sutter talks a good game that’s bright and peppy and entices the listener to feel wonderful in his presence.  It’s the secret to great salesmanship and functioning alcoholics practice it like a pianist’s scales.  However, the scholar-athlete-philanthropist says after one of Sutter’s one-on-one talks, “You’re not the joke some people say you are.”

Teller and Woodley as Convincing Teenage Lovers
     Shailene Woodley is tender and lovely as Aimee, very different from her breakout role in The Descendants.  However, I didn’t want this couple to end up together.  I felt terrible for Sutter, but I really wanted him to work out his own demons before pursuing this or any romantic relationship.  Brie Larson as his ex-girlfriend Cassidy, a charming, wounded young woman who’s ready to move on, compelled me more.  There’s a scene that is a whomper; I won’t say more.  It was good to see Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, and Bob Odenkirk as key adults in Sutter’s life.  It speaks to director James Ponsoldt’s talent.  He encourages fearless performances and though I haven’t seen his other two features, they center on alcoholics as well.  Maybe it’s time for him to move on from this subject.  Though in their twenties,
Pure Teenage Skin
Teller and Woodley have the skin of teenagers.  Why couldn’t acne be this evident in teen centered movies when I struggled with it in the ‘80s?

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