I’ve wanted to write this review for some time, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But alas — here we are. I’m going to try and keep things separate as best I can, focusing first on the story as a whole and the book, and then a separate section at the end to address the film and how I felt about that. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet – be forewarned there might be some spoilers in that section when we come to it.
The Spectacular Now is, first and foremost, a 2008 young-adult fiction novel written by Tim Tharp. It tells the story of Sutter Keely, a high-school senior who is serious about… nothing. Absolutely nothing. He’s constantly “buzzed” – as evidenced by the constant plastic cup in his hand containing a mix of alcohol and [some other drink.] The story begins as Sutter tries to help his friend get a girlfriend. Sutter’s girlfriend, Cassidy, sees the supposed “double-date” and breaks up with him. Fast forward to Sutter waking up in the middle of someone’s lawn.
That’s when he meets Aimee. Sutter offers to help with her paper route, as driving around the neighborhood will help him (hopefully) find his car… wherever he left it the previous night. A bond of some sort forms between the two, even though Aimee is a social disaster. Sutter decides to take her under his wing, to make Aimee his special project. They start hanging out. He learns more about her, she starts drinking, and soon… they appear to be a match made in heaven. A screwed-up match, that is.
Aimee gets attached, something Sutter didn’t expect. He figured she’d get sick of him after not too long, as all girls did… but Aimee’s different. Eventually, she convinces him to reach out to his father, someone he hasn’t spoken to in years. Behind the mystery… is there a happy ending? Things get tense, tense, even more tense, between Aimee and Sutter, with the premise of college lying ahead. Heck, Aimee even plans to move away after high school and hopes that Sutter will come with her. For once, he’s making plans…. but will he keep them? Or will he end up being exactly who everyone thinks he is: someone who’s only serious about not being serious?
Alright, so there’s the basic plot. I tried to be as short as possible, but gosh, that was tough.
My thoughts on the book: The story was alright. The message behind it, however – now that’s something I can get behind. Sutter was all about living in the now, living in the moment, appreciating life for what it is right NOW. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t do. We focus so much on the past, or so much on the future, that we don’t enjoy the present. Life truly is spectacular, so appreciate it.
Now… my thoughts on the movie. Again – if you don’t want some spoilers, stop reading here.
I’m so torn about how to feel about The Spectacular Now movie. It was good, but there were a lot of little things that just ticked me off enough to annoy me. Parts of the book were translated for the movie, but they were made to be cuter or more “attractive,” it seemed, and that annoyed me. For instance, there’s a scene in the book where Aimee and Sutter go to a party and Aimee’s wearing a big, puffy purple coat. She doesn’t look attractive in it, people laugh at her, and Sutter probably goes “d’oh. Jeez.” a few times. It was part of what affirmed that Aimee was a social wreck…. she had no idea how “uncool” the jacket made her look. She was always reading space novels, etc. Yet in the film – that puffy, unappealing coat is nowhere to be found. Almost as if they removed it because it wouldn’t be “cute” enough for Hollywood…. to reel Aimee in. Okay yes, she’s socially awkward, but in the cute way that makes it attractive for movies. Well, that ticked me off.
I also hated, hated, HATED the ending. They tacked that on – it wasn’t in the book. Sutter never goes off to find Aimee after he ditches her without a word. Yet in the movie, he decides to step up and go find her? WHAT? Are you kidding me? It’s a half-assed attempt to give it some semblance of a happy ending, but that’s NOT HOW THE BOOK WENT. Okay, I’m rambling now. I apologize. Even though we don’t know what happens after they meet again – if Aimee totally rejects him, or they get back together, or what – it gives viewers some idea that hey, maybe Sutter changed! Maybe he’s actually a good guy. But that’s NOT HOW THE BOOK WENT, and adding a scene like that completely changes everything!
Okay. I’m done now, I swear. My point is: it’s a decent book and a decent movie. Miles Teller & Shailene Woodley are great. If you take anything away from this, be it this: Life is spectacular. Live in the now. Enjoy the present. Don’t live in the past or the future; live in the spectacular now.