Sutter, the central character in The Spectacular Now, is like John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. He’s charming and cute in kind of a boy-next-door way. He is a high school senior who is in love with the moment, and because of this, he really has no plans for the future…. because isn’t the present perfect? Like Lloyd, he is wooing a girl that is out of his league, but he eventually wins her over. But unlike Lloyd Dobler, who becomes a better man because of the smart girl, Sutter doesn’t grow. Because of his character’s lack of evolution, I found myself really frustrated with The Spectacular Now. I mean, really: Do we really need another story about a screwed-up white boy who brings a nice girl into his orbit, for better or worse?
When Sutter (Miles Teller) meets cute with Amiee (Shailene Woodley), he seems to be nice to her out of convenience combined with pity. He wakes up drunk on her lawn after a bender. She recognizes him (of course) because he is the class clown. To him, however, she is one of the invisible in high school: not on his radar at all. But she’s cute and smart, and heck, maybe he is doing her a favor by asking her out after he helps her with her paper route. As this is a teen film about a boy and a girl, they of course fall in love (though that is a little unclear, depending on which side you ask).
The whole time that Sutter moves in for the kill, I had a hard time seeing his charms. This kid literally has a flask or a drink in hand for the entire movie. He lures in the nice girl while pining over his ex-girlfriend. Aimee supports and enables him, and gosh, isn’t he lucky. So, boo-hoo to him when it takes some hardcore reality checks for him to hit rock bottom. Or does he hit rock bottom? It is a bit unclear, as Sutter’s character arc kind of felt like more of a straight line.
There is a scene where Sutter beams at his classmates at the high school prom, and proclaims his love for everyone, I couldn’t help but think that this is yet another movie (first a book, in this case), written by a white boy, pining over his lost glory days, reminiscing about things he could and could not change. We’ve all seen this before. At one point, Sutter asks Aimee what her story is. She claims to have none. But as she reveals herself, we all know that isn’t true. What IS Aimee’s story? How about a movie about her next time!