Sutter Keely is the life of every party and with the hottest girl in school at his side he is a king. In a perpetual haze of alcohol, his life is lived in the now. Numb to pain or love, Sutter is oblivious to anything but the hedonistic pleasures of this world. That is, until a misunderstanding leaves him single and being woken up in an unfamiliar front yard by a girl he doesn’t even know. Life will never be the same again. What follows is the best movie of the summer. The Spectacular Now is a masterpiece with more heart and honesty than the entire summer’s movies combined.
Sutter has grown up in a broken home, with a father who is gone, yet he defends and a mother he is sure is hiding something. His older sister is already married and even though she loves him, she is not really an influence in his life. For Sutter, life is best lived in hiding from his feelings and everyone else. Living in the “now” allows him to focus on others, never really able to feel what he is feeling, giving him the appearance of being okay but inside crying out for love . He has no guidance on how to be a man because there is no one there to show him. His father is not around and his teacher as well as his boss, even though they care do not reach out and take up this young man’s training. In fact, most of the adults in this film are so wrapped up in their own worlds that they have little or no effect on the children they are meant to be raising. It is a sad commentary on the self-obsessed culture that the world has so readily embraced. With no one there to model for these teens manhood and womanhood they are left to figure out life on their own.
Sutter has a good heart, one that wants to love others and take care of them, but his own emotional wounds leave him inadequate to the task. He ends up feeling like cancer to people’s lives, worthless and broken. He has spent a lifetime, looking for love, longing for it, yet never having true love modeled for him he cannot understand it.
Amiee Finecky is the girl that wakes Sutter up in the yard. She is not anyone popular in school and yet there is something about her that draws him in. Sutter has the ability to see the things people need. He can encourage them in just the right way, make them feel like they can do anything. So against his better judgement he finds himself trying to help Amiee out. What he does not realize is that it will be her that revolutionizes his life.
There is a powerful scene in the movie that’s the turning point in the film. Sutter, who is always slightly, if not fully intoxicated, has finally met his dad for the first time since he left. He finds a broken man who is incapable of truly loving anyone else but himself. Sutter and Amiee, on their way home and most certainly inebriated, almost run into another car head on. The first thing that Amiee does is turn to Sutter and ask him, “Are you ok?”. Sutter cannot believe his ears. He is faced, for the first time in his life with unconditional and sacrificial love and it freaks him out. True love has invaded his life and he has no infrastructure to support what Amiee is giving him. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel in action. Amiee loves Sutter. He has not earned it, she just gives herself and her love as a gift. It is this gift that begins to transform the way Sutter sees himself. It is not a perfect gospel picture but the power of redemptive love is fully on display and will leave you moved long after the film is over.
This is a powerful film. The performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley will leave you in tears as you feel every single emotion of the characters. This is the kind of movie that makes you thankful for the art of cinema. I cannot recommend this film more.