Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Spectacular Now

Go To

"It's fine to live in the now. But the best thing about now is that there's another one tomorrow. And I'm gonna start making them count."
Sutter Keely

A 2013 American independent romantic drama film directed by James Ponsoldt, based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Tim Tharp.

Sutter Keely is a party-crazy high school senior on the verge of graduation whose attitude is that everyone should "live in the now" and step outside their comfort zone. Things aren't going too well for him as the film begins, as he gets dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy over a misunderstanding. However, things look up for him when he strikes up a romance with a shy, geeky girl called Aimee Finicky. Nobody Thinks It Will Work.

The film stars Miles Teller as Sutter, Shailene Woodley as Aimee, Brie Larson as Cassidy, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter's mother Sara, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his sister Holly, and Kyle Chandler as his estranged father Tommy. It is also notable as one of the first films to be released by A24.

Tropes used in the film include:

  • Abusive Parents: Aimee's mother makes her do the paper route she is supposed to do, and Aimee feels that she won't be allowed to go to her preferred college in Philadelphia because of it.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The novel is set in Oklahoma, while the film is set (and shot) in director James Ponsoldt's hometown of Athens, Georgia.
  • The Alcoholic: Sutter is a budding one, an issue that is not glossed over in the movie.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The movie ends before it becomes clear what will happen between Sutter and Aimee. The book was less so, it was fairly (if not outright) clear that the two would not get back together, and Sutter's life would go nowhere. The movie on the other hand doesn't entirely dismiss the more positive possibility though.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Aimee's younger brother Shane, who's sullen and fond of video games.
  • Betty and Veronica: Downplayed, but Sutter's two love interests are his ex-girlfriend Cassidy - who is a popular blonde, wears sexy clothing and is a Hard-Drinking Party Girl (Veronica) - and the shy, studious, modest Aimee (Betty).
  • Big Man on Campus: Marcus West - star athlete, class president, charity founder.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sutter doesn't graduate high school, he leaves his job at the store out of dissatisfaction, slips deeper into alcohol, finds out his dad totally abandoned him and his sister while also not seeing Aimee off at the bus and putting that relationship in major jeopardy. However, he begins to realize how wrong things are going and that he needs to fix them and his relationship with his mother begins to repair itself finally when she assures him he's nothing like his father. Also, while the outcome being positive or not is not certain, Sutter goes to see Aimee at college in the hope of patching things up.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sutter eventually has his of his dad shattered when he discovers what a jerkass he is.
  • Brainy Brunette: Aimee has brown hair, reads a lot and gets really good grades. Sutter also counts as he's said to be Brilliant, but Lazy.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Mostly averted. Sutter drinks and drives but never is seen getting into an accident. At worst, he crashes into his own mailbox after one night of drinking. He nearly gets into a crash after some time at a bar, but that's more to do with anger than the drinking.
  • The Charmer: Sutter tries to be this but it's never shown working.
  • Coming of Age Story: Both Sutter and Aimee grow as people throughout the movie.
  • Cool Teacher: Sutter has one who tries to motivate him to do better.
  • Cry into Chest: Sutter with his mother towards the end.
  • Dismotivation: Sutter is quite content with his job at a men's clothing store and has no desire for anything more.
  • Easily Forgiven: Aimee forgives Sutter for getting her hit by a truck extremely easily. But it's left completely open as to whether she'll forgive him for standing her up at the bus.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Cassidy is blonde, and portrayed as something of a popular girl.
  • Extreme Doormat: Aimee allows herself to be taken advantage of by her mother - doing a paper route that her mother is supposed to do, and only getting a small share of the pay. It also has to be said that forgiving Sutter after he causes her to get into a car accident is an example of this too.
  • Geek: Aimee, who loves science fiction and manga.
  • Generation Xerox: Played for Drama. Sutter discovers that he's a lot like his dad - down to the "live in the now" attitude. But a line is drawn; while they both may be reckless drinkers, Sutter cares a lot more about his peers and has to be reminded of it.
  • Godiva Hair: Aimee during her and Sutter's sex scene. Her nipple is briefly visible through her hair at one point.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Sutter fails to see what's so great about becoming an adult.
  • The Hedonist: Sutter's 'live in the now' attitude is a perfect example of this. It does however get deconstructed, showing how empty Sutter's life actually is.
  • Hollywood Healing: Aimee gets hit by a car and has to have her arm in a sling. She's then off to Philadelphia for college and her arm is no longer in the sling. The time frame is left vague, but it's still a rather quick heal.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Aimee is quite shy and has low self-esteem, so she doesn't believe she's pretty. When Sutter comments on two boys checking her out at the party, she says "guys don't look at me like that". Sutter disagrees and plants a Big Damn Kiss on her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although Sutter can be a Deadpan Snarker and say some mean things, he really does care about his friends. He goes out of his way to make sure his best friend gets a girlfriend - and when in the process Cassidy dumps him, he never attacks the friend over it.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Aimee is seen wearing her hair down as she and Sutter get more serious. Notably on their first date (the party) she initially has it down but ties it up.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Sutter, drunk and angry, says that he's exactly like his father. There's truth in there, too - both are fun-loving but irresponsible men. Sutter's mother, however, assures him that he has a big heart where his father had none.
  • Made of Iron: Aimee gets hit by a car and the worst she gets is a broken arm.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Reconstruction. Told from the perspective of a Manic Pixie Dream Guy. Sutter himself goes about fixing people's lives, and he inserts himself into the shy Aimee's life and convinces her to stand up to her mother so she can go to the college she wants. While it's quickly shown how empty Sutter's 'live in the now' attitude is, it is pointed out that he is a good person deep down and his MPDG traits do help people. He just needs to not neglect his own life.
  • Meet Cute: Sutter meets Aimee while he's passed out on the lawn of a house she's delivering a paper too.
  • Meta Casting: Kyle Chandler is known for playing all around Nice Guys with Early Edition, Friday Night Lights and many other projects. This was intentional as when he shows up playing Sutter's dad, the reveal of him as a deadbeat and irresponsible is meant to hurt.
  • Motor Mouth: Sutter, although most of it is brought on by drink.
  • Never My Fault: Cassidy says of Sutter that she's "trying to stay away from things that are bad for me" - essentially claiming that he's responsible for all her bad behaviour.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Cassidy catches Sutter in a car with another girl and dumps him. He was setting his friend up with someone, and was just keeping her friend company in the car during the date.
  • The Oner: The four minute scene of Aimee talking about Philadelphia and Sutter convincing her to stand up to her mother is entirely one take.
  • Opposites Attract: Sutter is an outgoing party boy, while Aimee is an introverted brainy type. They hit it off great - with Sutter becoming interested in one of Aimee's mangas, and Aimee enjoying the odd drink here and there.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: The walls in Aimee's room are plastered with drawings and posters related to her interests.
  • Precision F-Strike: Invoked by Sutter. He says that in order to stand up to her mother, Aimee must say "get off my mother-fucking back!"
  • Quick Nip: Sutter carries around a supersize soda cup with something that isn't soda in it.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Sutter delivers one to himself as part of an inner monologue towards the end.
  • Shower of Angst: Sutter, after his actions cause Aimee to be hit by a truck.
  • Shrinking Violet: Aimee is quite shy and introverted, not having many friends.
  • Stepford Smiler: Sutter, who has been terrified of feeling any kind of negative emotion as a result.
  • Their First Time: It's slow, sweet, and awkward. Subverted in a deleted scene, where it turns out it wasn't Aimee's.
  • Wham Line: From a deleted scene, where Aimee admits her first time was when she was 14.
    Aimee: I should have known no twenty year-old would be interested in me.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Sutter's teacher tells him this, saying he's Brilliant, but Lazy.