Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a happy-go-lucky high school senior who unlike most of his peers is in no rush to go to college or leave his home town. Everything is going smoothly for him until his longtime girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) dumps him. Then, by chance he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a shy girl in his class whom he adopts as his special project. She resides at the margins of her high school and has never had a boyfriend. He introduces her to his friends in the in-crowd and hopes that she will learn from him how to relax and loosen up a bit. He asks her to tutor him in math, and she agrees. To help her chill out, Sutter shares with her alcohol from a flask he carries in his pocket.
Aimee is turns out to be full of surprises: she reveals her obsession with science fiction and her reluctance to abandon her mother by going away to college. Both Sutter and Amiee have grown up without fathers — a subject which comes up when he takes her to a dinner party at the home of his well-to-do older sister Holly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Although Sutter has repeatedly asked his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to give him the address of his wayward father, who left them, she has refused. It is Aimee who pushes him to set up a meeting. The father-son reunion is a nightmare experience for Sutter whose ideas about himself are knocked for a loop.
The Spectacular Now is an incredibly well-acted coming- of-age drama adapted from Tim Tharp's novel by the (500) Days of Summer team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. As was true with the youth film Say Anything, which examines the challenges faced by two teenagers who are complete opposites, we find ourselves immersed in the emotional lives of these two teenagers whose character flaws and vulnerabilities are rendered with astonishing authenticity. We care about Sutter's addiction to booze and hope that he can get into a treatment program. After Aimee and Sutter take their relationship to a new level with sexual intercourse, we worry that she will crash-and-burn if he doesn't return her love for him.
Director James Ponsoldt (Smashed) makes the most of the accomplished performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley which match those of John Cusack and Skye in Say Anything which examines the challenges faced by two teenagers who are complete opposites. Both of these films probe the obstacles and the rewards of young love and both have a universal appeal that crosses the generations by speaking to the heart.
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes; "Then To Now: making The Spectacular Now"; 4-part featurette: "Inception" — defying hollywood; "Cast" — finding the voice; "Aesthetic" — authenticity counts; "Real" — bringing it all to life; and an audio commentary with director James Ponsoldt.