Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Spectacular Now

Title - The Spectacular Now

Written By - Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

So, what drew me to The Spectacular Now? The writers, of course! Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are the writers of the insanely good (500) Days of Summer, so naturally I had to read their follow-up. The Spectacular Now is based on the novel by Tim Tharp, and is centred around the character SUTTER KEELY, a gregarious high school senior who focuses solely on having a good time and living in the now. The script opens on Sutter having just been dumped by his beautiful girlfriend CASSIDY. To get over the break-up, he goes on somewhat of a partying/drinking binge. One morning he awakes on a lawn with a classmate AIMEE asking if he's okay. AIMEE is that cute, meek girl-next-door with a pretty crappy family situation.

Now seeing AIMEE enter, I naturally thought "She's going to save Sutter from his party-boy/lackadaisical work ethic ways." What unfolds however is something completely different. Of course, AIMEE & SUTTER develop a friendship which in turn becomes romantic. He encourages her to stand up to her mother who forces her to carry out her morning paper route with no compensation in return, while AIMEE urges SUTTER to ask his mother about his father's whereabouts. So while they better each other in certain ways, SUTTER's influence on AIMEE isn't always positive. SUTTER is a pretty heavy drinker, who frequently drinks & drives. Slowly but surely, AIMEE begins to adopt this habit, drinking between classes and getting wasted at prom. SUTTER can't see the harm he's doing until his ex CASSIDY and his friends stage an intervention of sorts, highlighting the harm he's doing to AIMEE. He denies it at first, and maintains that he's helping AIMEE.

Then there's a sequence where SUTTER and AIMEE go to meet his long-estranged father who walked out on his family when SUTTER was a child. SUTTER's always held him in a high esteem, blaming his mother for their split, however his romantic visions of his father come crumbling down all around him when he sees him for the selfish guy he is. Then there's a pretty dramatic event involving a car which I won't spoil for those curious to read the script.

So is The Spectacular Now good? While reading it, I can't say I enjoyed it a great deal. But on finishing it, I realised it's not a movie meant to be enjoyed necessarily. It's a tragic character study of a high school senior with not a lot going for him as regards a future, and is desperate to cling on to the "fun party guy" perception of him that people have. There's a line in the movie where Cassidy's new boyfriend TOM tells Sutter that he's not the joke that everyone thinks he is, and that kinda summates SUTTER's existence pretty nicely. Here's a guy who everyone thinks of as the fun guy at the party, but in actuality has a lot of hidden depths to him as regards intelligence and kindess.
I feel like the script could be punched up a bit. It feels like it's lacking something - perhaps comedy/comic relief? It's been a few days since I read it, but I don't remember anything making me laugh, and I believe that the book is equally tragic and hilarious.

All in all, it's worth a read. I think that it will translate into a very good film, particularly if Marc Webb remains involved with the project. There's an instruction in the script as regards colour that says the lighting/surroundings are brighter and more beautiful when SUTTER is drunk/at a party, while it's duller while he's sober. Might seem like a minor detail in terms of the entire script, but with good casting and direction, I think this could turn out very well indeed.


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