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First Reviews for The Spectacular Now

As the headline reads, the first reviews for James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now have already come online, and they’re all positive. While they mostly focus on Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller’s performances, they’re great nonetheless. Hopefully it won’t be long until it’s picked up by a studio. I’ll keep you guys posted but in the meantime, here are some reviews. As always, click on the links to read them in full. First one is from FirstShowing:

Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now is a deeply layered, indie romantic comedy, coming-of-age alcoholism story all wrapped up in one. It’s sweet, it’s endearing, it’s charming, it’s emotional, it’s moving, it’s honest, it’s brilliant, it’s thoughtful. It’s about so much more than what it shows on the surface, and is just as complex as the characters are, evolving as it progress just as they do. It never resorts to cliches, it never takes the easy way out, and it has a momentum that keeps pushing the story forward at a smooth rate, never too fast or too slow. While I still love Smashed, Ponsoldt shows that he matures as a filmmaker each film, which is why I can’t wait to follow his career from here. But for now, it’s all about being in the “Spectacular Now.”


“Live in the moment” is a nice platitude and a crappy life philosophy.  Vivacity is all well and good.  We should appreciate the present, but we can’t live only for the present.  We have to think about tomorrow because we’re probably going to be there.    In his wonderful new film The Spectacular Now, director James Ponsoldt explore the live-for-the-moment mentality with an authentic and earnest look at high school emotions, anxiety about the future, and first love.   Led by extraordinary performances from stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now is a thoroughly charming and surprisingly powerful coming-of-age story about the fear of looking ahead and the seductive safety of living in the present.

By investing in his characters and giving the actors room to flesh out their characters, Ponsoldt stops his movie from being a cautionary tale.  Obviously, “living like there’s no tomorrow” isn’t a good life strategy, but it’s an understandable escape.  It’s undoubtedly entertaining to watch Sutter flee from his responsibilities and neglect plans for life beyond high school.  But The Spectacular Now never lets its protagonist off the hook.  The movie doesn’t lecture and it doesn’t scold; it simply lets the present play out to an uncertain and ultimately more rewarding future.


The most common of all Sundance Film Festival tropes, or at least the most exhausted, is the quirky romance between two attractive, young, mildly famous white people. It’s easy to read that kind of plot description in the guide and roll your eyes, but then once in a while comes a movie like The Spectacular Now, a moving reminder that the genre just works, dammit. An adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel, stuffed with memorable characters and turns of phrase and authentic evocations of high school mania, The Spectacular Now is an instant MVP of the first half of the festival, with potential breakout hit written all over it.

The Spectacular Now has all the makings of a huge hit (it’s not written by 500 Days of Summer‘s Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter by accident).


Much more meaty drama than teen comedy, director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed”) treats the story and characters with respect and seriousness almost to a fault. While not dour, “The Spectacular Now” can also be tremendously heavy. That’s not a bad thing, the picture is far more substantive than most teen relationship films, but it could probably use just a smidgeon of levity here and there after the first act.

Ponsoldt’s picture is self-possessed, mature and deeply patient, but it’s perhaps not at the exact pace some audiences are accustomed to. At 95 minutes, “The Spectacular Now” feels closer to two hours and that’s both to its benefit and minor detriment. Marked by long takes — one steady-cam shot is seven minutes long — Ponsoldt puts the emphasis on his actors and considering how good his cast is, it’s a smart move.

“The Spectacular Now” is wise beyond its years, charismatic, measured and authentic in its depiction of the pains, confusions and insecurities of the teenage experience, and while its deliberate rhythm may prove to be a harder sell among the teen crowd, it’s a valuable and honest film that’s worth the investment.

There’s also another small review written by The Salt Lake Tribune which you can read here.