The Spectacular Now (2013)

(Netflix Streaming, December 2016) What? Miles Teller playing a cad who learns better?!? Well, yes: for an actor as young as he is, Teller has already developed a strong screen persona that’s part arrogance and part cynicism. Time will tell if he can sustain it (especially given his similarities with a younger John Cusack) but, in the meantime, he’s effective and even entertaining in those roles. In The Spectacular Now, Teller plays a high-school version of a character we usually see in older stages of life: the underachieving boozer/womanizer, getting by on minimal effort and apparently willing to dismiss everything and everyone but secretly harbouring some long-lasting emotional scars. Focusing on a girl as kind of a rebound Pygmalion project seems like a passing fancy at first, but we know it’s not going to be as simple as making his ex-girlfriend jealous so that he can get back with her. Not too far from the recent John Greenish mode of teenage moviemaking, The Spectacular Now does have the grace to play between drama and comedy, with flawed characters, difficult situations, uncomfortable choices and characters growing up. Shailene Woodley is fine as the romantic heroine and Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a remarkable appearance as an older sister, but it’s Teller’s film. The film is remarkable by what it doesn’t do—namely, fall into the traps of the usual teenage dramedies … although I’m a bit worried that, along with The Way Way Back and other John Green-adapted films, it’s forging a set of new clichés for that subgenre. Time will tell, as time will tell whether this will remain a definitive performance for Teller’s early career.

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