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The Spectacular Now

Two weekends ago, my sister came to visit me and we couldn’t decide on anything Boston-y that we should do. I even asked her if she wanted any food-stuffs that you can only get in the big city and she said “no, I’m on a migraine medication that kills my appetite so I don’t really eat.”

So I thought we could see a Sister Movie, as this particular sister and I have a very long track record of watching movies together. Our parents dropped us off at the theater to see Titanic in 1997. We saw Slumdog Millionaire together on Valentine’s Day – my sister sang me a love song while we waited in the concession line, but refused to share a Diet Coke.

We went to see The Spectacular Now, because the only movies ever pay money for are adaptations of children’s and YA books. Apparently. I read Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now just after starting my old blog, actually. I had just decided to start reading like a crazy person all the time, and The Spectacular Now caught my eye from the National Book Award shortlist.

I think I would like to read it again. The movie felt like a boiled down teen love story with a complicated, fairly unlikeable protagonist. I remember there being something more going on in the book, some more depth to Sutter’s world view. I liked the movie, though, for what it was, although I will admit to a major distraction:

Shailene Woodley in this movie looked fairly exactly like our youngest sister.

Tall, long of limb, always wearing her hair in a messy top-knot, freckles, little cute nose, long dark hair… it was fairly uncanny. And also, Shailene’s character, Aimee, was pretty much the same character as my sister. Quiet. Under the radar. Super smart. Beautiful. And into sci-fi. There’s a scene when Sutter comes into Aimee’s bedroom for the first time and it was pretty much my little sister’s bedroom, all animals and posters and twinkle lights. You know, the bedroom with the fairytale night stand? Yeah. That sister.

The association became rather distracting because I was basically watching a movie where my youngest sister falls in love with a slick alcoholic who will probably break her heart. Also, there’s a sex scene. Also also, that bedroom scene just screamed Manic Pixie Dreamgirl…  And then my mind started whirring – is my sister going to be someone’s MPDG? She did just start college – will she bring someone back to her dorm room and they will fall head over heels for her adorable posters and tchotchkes and vast knowledge of Pokemon? Do MPDGs actually occur in real life or are they persistent fictional female constructs?

I don’t think Movie Aimee is particular MPDG-y, and Book Aimee even less. In fact, I think part of what is interesting about The Spectacular Now is just how average Aimee is, and how Sutter has to learn how not to change her to his whims and also treat her life and interests with respect – even if she’s falling in love too fast, and even if Sutter can’t manage to treat his own life with respect.

It was also interesting to see the differences between how the book and the movie portray Sutter’s personal vices. The book is first person from Sutter’s POV, the whole story filtered through Sutter’s over-the-top perspective. Sutter’s voice is funny and brash and so well done, but Tharp definitely uses the strong voice to his narrative advantage, using it to distract the reader from how much Sutter is drinking, how many dangerous decisions he is making, and also the whole plotline about his father. On the screen, we watch Sutter sipping from his flask almost constantly – it sinks in much more quickly how damaged this boy is and how much progress he needs to make. I think the movie is sadder to watch than the book was to read.

Anyway, I would recommend seeing this film if for no other reason than to promote films based on YA books that are not big budget dystopian trilogies that end up flopping, discouraging movie producers and American film-goers from investing in anything Teen. I think I will give the book a re-read, or maybe try Mojo, which I unearthed from the bottom of my Drawer of Shame yesterday.

Also, if you would like to read a more movie-ly review of this film, please direct yourself to my dear friend’s blog, The Daley Screening. He is watching a movie every day for a year, in a panic celebration of turning 30 earlier this year, and blogging about it. It’s a pretty impressive task to behold. Also, he talks a lot more about booze in his review than I do, if you like that sort of thing. Which I do, but I like books more.

One Comment

  1. Tomissa says:

    I have a weird love for The Spectacular Now. At first, I hated the novel. Now, I just want to curl up with it because it is comfortable. It is real. It is beautiful.

    I cannot wait to see this movie. Maybe I will treat myself to a screening while taking a break from work this week.

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