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The Spectacular Now is a 2013 American coming of age romantic comedy-drama film directed by James Ponsoldt, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. The film is based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Tim Tharp. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered critical acclaim. It was released in the United States on August 2, 2013, and grossed $6 million worldwide.

The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Ponsoldt
Produced by
  • Tom McNulty
  • Shawn Levy
  • Michelle Krumm
  • Andrew Lauren
Screenplay by
Based onThe Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Music byRob Simonsen
CinematographyJess Hall
Edited byDarrin Navarro
Distributed byA24[1]
Release date
  • January 18, 2013 (2013-01-18) (Sundance)
  • August 2, 2013 (2013-08-02) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million[3]
Box office$6.9 million[3]



Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a charming and popular 18-year-old who is partying and drinking his way through his senior year in high school. When his girlfriend Cassidy Roy (Brie Larson) decides he's a lost cause and breaks up with him, she starts seeing Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), the School President and an athletic star. Sutter goes home and writes a college application supplement, in which he says that his biggest hardship in life has been getting dumped by his girlfriend the day before. He then goes out and gets drunk.

He wakes up on the front lawn of Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), a girl in his year whose name he doesn't know. Aimee is about to do her mother's paper route, which she does every morning, though she gives most of the money to her mother to pay the bills, which Sutter protests at being unfair. Sutter does the paper route with her and they have a good time. He sits with her at lunch and asks her to tutor him in geometry, which he is failing, and learns she is smart, funny and into sci-fi and comics. Sutter goes home and deletes the supplement he wrote about his life's biggest hardship, abandoning it for the time being. Sutter invites Aimee to a party, where he introduces her to some Sci-Fi fans and then asks Cassidy to have a drink with him, but Marcus arrives to pick her up. Sutter and Aimee go for a walk and get drunk from his hip flask. Aimee confesses she has never been drunk before, never had a boyfriend and doesn't think she can go to college because she has to take care of her irresponsible mother. Sutter tells her she is not responsible for her mother, she is beautiful, and the boys at the party liked her. Sutter then kisses her to further convince her of this.

The next morning Sutter wakes up hungover and realizes that he asked Aimee to prom the night before. Avoiding his college application, Sutter IMs Cassidy, who invites him over. They get drunk in her room, reminisce and Sutter says he's happy with his life living in the moment. Cassidy say she needs more than a moment; she needs a future, which Sutter can't do. Marcus, who is jealous of the way Sutter and Cassidy have fun, confronts Sutter, who reassures him that Cassidy doesn't want him anymore, but perhaps Marcus could lighten up sometimes.

Sutter has been avoiding Aimee and her friend Krystal (Kaitlyn Dever) warns him not to hurt her. Sutter takes Aimee to dinner at his sister Holly's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who's married a wealthy lawyer and become a housewife. At dinner Aimee talks frankly about the death of her father from an opiate overdose and her dreams of a perfect marriage. Sutter and Aimee become more serious, to the point where Aimee invites Sutter over to have sex. Afterwards Sutter confesses that his mother kicked his father out when he was a child and has forbidden him from seeing him, even though he'd formerly lied and told her his father was an air force pilot. Sutter and Aimee make a pact to stand up to their mothers. Sutter buys Aimee a hip flask as a gift for prom, so they can drink together. Aimee is too shy to dance, so Sutter dances first with Cassidy and they're the center of attention, but then he drags Aimee onto the dance floor for a slow dance. The night goes well and Aimee tells him that she is going to college in Philadelphia where her sister lives, and can help her find an apartment and job in a bookstore. She asks Sutter to come with her and go to junior college there.

Sutter gets his father's (Kyle Chandler) phone number from Holly and arranges to meet up to see a baseball game, like they used to, and takes Aimee along. His father has forgotten about their plans and instead takes them to a local bar, then ditches them when he picks up a woman at the bar. He asks them to get the tab and meet him back at his motel, but when he fails to show up they find him back in the bar drinking with his mates, so they head home. Aimee attempts to comfort Sutter by telling him she loves him, but Sutter, angry and drunk, snaps at her. After almost causing an accident, he tells her he's no good for her and forces her to get out of the car. Aimee, crying and not paying attention to the road, is clipped by a passing car. Aimee has only a broken arm and immediately forgives Sutter for the incident, despite the fact that he had never driven her while sober. Meanwhile, Sutter is failing geometry, as he has always been bad at it and no longer has Aimee to tutor him.

At graduation, Sutter opens up his diploma and reveals that it is blank, implying that he failed senior year and did not technically graduate. After graduation, Sutter refuses to drink with Aimee from her flask, much to her surprise. When talking to Cassidy, she informs Sutter that she is going to California with Marcus. He suggests he might pay a visit to them but Cassidy says it's a bad idea and she's trying to do things that are healthy for her. She hugs him goodbye and tells him he will always be her favorite ex-boyfriend. His boss, Dan (Bob Odenkirk), tells him he has to let go of some staff. He wants to keep Sutter on, because he is great with the clients, but only if he stops turning up drunk. Sutter says he can't promise that and quits.

Sutter then drives past Aimee, who is waiting for him by the bus to Philadelphia, leaving her heartbroken. He heads to a bar and explains to the barflies that it was for Aimee's own good. He drives home drunk, totals his mailbox, and gets in an argument with his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh). He says he saw his father and he's just like him. His mother reassures him that he is nothing like his father because he has a kind heart and loves everyone. Sutter reassesses his life and finally completes the personal statement for his college application, even though he knows it's way too late. He confesses that his biggest hardship is himself. Afraid of failure and getting hurt, he has tried to shut out everything and everybody, so while his life might not be "harder than normal," he has made it so with his own actions. While living in the now is okay, there will be another "now" the next day, and he will make sure his "nows" add up to something. He drives to Philadelphia and finds Aimee as she is leaving class. He looks up at her hopefully. She suppresses a smile when she sees him.



Principal photography commenced in Athens, Georgia, in July 2012 and wrapped a month later.[4] While the novel is set in Oklahoma, director James Ponsoldt preferred to shoot in his hometown;[4] he explained:

The script didn't identify where it was set – the setting just wasn't a big city. It felt vaguely suburban – or kind of like a college town. It seemed to me that the script had a sense of place in the way that Breaking Away did. Athens was such an obvious candidate as a setting to shoot the film in – and it was really the only place I wanted to make the film. Filming in Athens was incredibly meaningful to me. We shot in the streets and houses of my childhood![5]


Box officeEdit

The Spectacular Now opened in limited release in North America on August 2, 2013 in four theaters and grossed $197,415 with an average of $49,354 per theater and ranking #30 at the box office. The film's wide release was in 770 theaters and it ended up earning $6.9 million domestically and an additional $63,980 elsewhere for a total of $6.9 million, against its $2.5 million budget.[3]

Critical responseEdit

The Spectacular Now was warmly received at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 160 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings."[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[7]

The late Roger Ebert, in one of the last reviews he filed, awarded the film a full four stars, stating in his review:

Here is a lovely film about two high school seniors who look, speak and feel like real 18-year-old middle-American human beings. Do you have any idea how rare that is? They aren't crippled by irony. They aren't speeded up into cartoons. Their sex lives aren't insulted by scenes that treat them cheaply [...] What an affecting film this is. It respects its characters and doesn't use them for its own shabby purposes. How deeply we care about them. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are so there. Being young is a solemn business when you really care about someone. Teller has a touch of John Cusack in his Say Anything period. Woodley is beautiful in a real person sort of way, studying him with concern, and then that warm smile. We have gone through senior year with these two. We have known them. We have been them.[8]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film four stars out of four, describing it as "the best American movie of the year so far". He summarized his review by adding: "The Spectacular Now will bring you back to that time in your life when you were trying to soak in every moment, because everyone told you there's nothing better than your last year in high school."[9] In The Hollywood Reporter, critic Todd McCarthy called the film "a sincere, refreshingly unaffected look at teenagers and their attitudes about the future... Ordinary in some ways and extraordinary in others, The Spectacular Now benefits from an exceptional feel for its main characters on the parts of the director and lead actors."[10]

Dana Stevens of Slate also praised both the leads, commenting that "Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley have such a disarmingly direct and spontaneous connection as actors that Sutter and Aimee almost immediately come to seem like a couple you've known (or been part of) at some point in your life... The Spectacular Now captures the beauty and scariness and lacerating intensity of first love".[11] Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman described it as "one of the rare truly soulful and authentic teen movies." He compared it favorably to Say Anything... and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, saying "like them, it's a movie about the experience of being caught on the cusp and truly not knowing which way you'll land."[12]

In Variety, critic Rob Nelson wrote: "The scars and blemishes on the faces of the high-school lovers in The Spectacular Now are beautifully emblematic of director James Ponsoldt's bid to bring the American teen movie back to some semblance of reality, a bid that pays off spectacularly indeed."[13] Cinema Blend called it "the rare Sundance coming-of-age story that feels like it matters",[14] adding: "The Spectacular Now is an instant MVP of the first half of the festival, with potential breakout hit written all over it... you'll be hearing a lot about this one down the road, and it's got the goods to live up to the hype." Phoebe Reilly of Spin called the film "the next great teen movie" and "truly remarkable". She acclaimed Teller and Woodley for their "absurdly natural performances", with Sutter "uniquely irresistible" and Aimee "a perfect repertoire of nervous giggles and awkward mannerisms."[15]


At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, The Spectacular Now received the Special Jury Award for Acting.[16]

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[17] December 16, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Shailene Woodley Nominated
Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality or Seduction Award Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller Nominated
Gotham Awards[18] December 2, 2013 Best Actress Shailene Woodley Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[19] March 1, 2014 Best Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Best Female Lead Shailene Woodley Nominated
National Board of Review[20] December 4, 2013 Top Ten Independent Films The Spectacular Now Won
San Diego Film Critics Society[21] December 11, 2013 Best Supporting Actress Shailene Woodley Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[22] December 15, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Seattle International Film Festival[23] June 9, 2013 Youth Jury Award for Best FutureWave Feature The Spectacular Now Won
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[24] December 16, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated
Sundance Film Festival January 26, 2013 Special Jury Award for Acting Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley Won
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic James Ponsoldt Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[25] December 9, 2013 Best Adapted Screenplay Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Nominated


  1. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 21, 2013). "Sundance: A24 Buys 'The Spectacular Now'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "The Spectacular Now (2013)". The Numbers. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Gallant, Andre (June 28, 2012). "New film preps to shoot in Athens". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  5. ^ Wardell, Gabe (January 31, 2013). "Catching up with Georgia filmmaker James Ponsoldt, whose latest feature just conquered Sundance". Creative Loafing. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  6. ^ "The Spectacular Now Rotten Tomatoes".
  7. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Metacritic".
  8. ^ Roger Ebert (August 2, 2013). "The Spectacular Now". Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  9. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Richard Roeper review".
  10. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 20, 2013). "The Spectacular Now: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  11. ^ "The Spectacular Now - Slate review".
  12. ^ "The Spectacular Now - EW review".
  13. ^ Nelson, Rob (January 19, 2013). "Review: "The Spectacular Now"". Variety. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  14. ^ Rich, Katey (January 19, 2013). "The Spectacular Now: The Rare Sundance Coming-Of-Age Story That Feels Like It Matters". Cinema Blend. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  15. ^ Reilly, Phoebe (January 20, 2013). "The Next Great Teen Movie Premieres at Sundance: 'The Spectacular Now'". Spin. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  16. ^ "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Feature Film Awards". January 26, 2013. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  17. ^ "2013 EDA Award Nominees". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  18. ^ Pond, Steve (October 24, 2013). "'12 Years a Slave' Leads Gotham Awards Nominations". The Wrap. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  19. ^ Kilday, Gregg (November 26, 2013). "'12 Years a Slave,' 'Nebraska' Dominate Spirit Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  20. ^ "NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW ANNOUNCES 2013 AWARD WINNERS". The National Board of Review. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  21. ^ Posner, Jay (December 11, 2013). "SD Film Critics name best of 2013". U-T San Diego. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  22. ^ Stone, Sasha (December 13, 2013). "San Francisco Film Critics Nominations". Awards Daily. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  23. ^ Marx, Jessica (June 9, 2013). "SIFF ANNOUNCES 2013 COMPETITION & GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AUDIENCE AWARDS". Seattle International Film Festival. Archived from the original on March 17, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  24. ^ Venhaus, Lynn (December 9, 2013). "St. Louis Film Critics choose their award nominees". Belleville News-Democrat. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  25. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 8, 2013). "'12 Years a Slave' and 'Her' lead the way with Washington D.C. critics nominations". HitFix. Retrieved December 8, 2013.

External linksEdit