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Oscar Watch: Could 'The Spectacular Now' Pull It Off?

Awards
by Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio
November 6, 2013 7:00 AM
3 Comments
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"The Spectacular Now"
'The Spectacular Now'

Even if you didn't buy into James Ponsoldt's earnest coming-of-age romance "The Spectacular Now," you can't deny the film's powerful lead performances. Gifted youngsters Miles Teller (26) and Shailene Woodley (21) go for broke in this genuine crowd-pleaser, talking like real teenagers, behaving like them and acting a fool as 18-year-olds do. Audiences have adored this movie since it premiered at Sundance (our review). So what are the film's award chances?

In a platform release that launched in early August, "The Spectacular Now" took home a respectable $6.8 million domestic and holds a 97% fresh rating among top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Its early advocates include EW critic Owen Gleiberman and NY Mag's David Edelstein.

Miles Teller plays it real as the kid you knew, or maybe were, in high school whose class-clowniness hides a hardscrabble home life and a dark side. Teller will make his way to AFI FEST this Friday, joining rising stars Dane DeHaan ("Kill Your Darlings"), Greta Gerwig ("Frances Ha"), Michael B. Jordan ("Fruitvale Station") and Brie Larson ("Short Term 12") in a Young Hollywood Round Table. All these folks have been in the awards conversation for months, so why not include Teller?

Amid a tough crowd of indie nominees including "Blue Jasmine" heavyweight Cate Blanchett and "Short Term 12" breakout Brie Larson, Woodley picked up a Gotham nomination last month for Best Actress. While Larson is likely the one young actress most seriously looking at a possible Oscar nom, clearly voters and critics haven't forgotten about Woodley's lovely work as a sheltered high schooler with freckles, warts and all. 

While the movie is getting support from Lionsgate for its "Divergent" star Woodley (Golden Globe-nominated for her work in "The Descendants"), as well as "Spectacular Now"'s rising indie distributor A24 ("The Bling Ring," "Spring Breakers"), which will send out screeners to critics groups this week, so far it's mostly in the hopes of snagging some Independent Spirit noms. Woodley could be heading into a banner year a la Jennifer Lawrence. But an awards bid for Best Actress is going to be tough. Check our assessment of the Best Actress Oscar race tomorrow.

3 Comments

  • JoeS | November 7, 2013 10:08 PMReply

    I disagree with both earlier posts - talk about nit-picking and not seeing the forest for the trees. How many films about teens/young adults do we get that anywhere near this intelligent?

    Still, it's awards chances are nil. Too bad it couldn't escape the 'art house' ghetto. I think it had a chance for a wider release, but, I guess those in the "know" didn't.....

  • James S. | November 7, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    Agreed, TC. Overhyped. Did you not love how Woodley's conflict with her mom (about not letting her go to the college of her choice) was resolved with literally one sentence near the end of the film? And I'm supposed to believe that a woman can support her teenage daughter and toddler on a paper route salary? Really?! And explain to me how two high school seniors can apparently walk into any bar in town and get wasted without being tossed out, asked to show ID, arrested, etc. The problem with this movie was absolutely and fundamentally at the screenplay level. It was a bad script. No bueno.

  • TC Kirkham | November 6, 2013 12:44 PMReply

    I have to say I really don't get all the super-critical love for this film. "Spectacular Now" is one of two films this year - the other being "The Kings Of Summer"- that I feel are decent but often highly overrated by most critics. Both are really good films on the surface, and that's fine for most viewers. But Miles Teller is horrendously miscast in this film- although he gives role his best try possible, he cannot escape what we call "Matthew Star" syndrome - he LOOKS like a 24 year old trying to pretend to be 17-18; as a result I found it completely impossible to believe he's a high school senior. And that completely offset the rest of the film for me. Had it been set in college rather than high school, I would have bought into it. Everyone else in the film were young enough looking to pass as high schoolers, but Teller looks at least five years older than Woodley and the actors around him. I can't help it - I am extremely picky when it comes to this, as my long-time readers and listeners know, and if I don't buy it, I don't buy it. And I didn't in this case. Which is not to say the film isn't well acted, written, and directed - it is. But after all the Sundance hype, I was disappointed with the casting. And in turn, disappointed with the film as well.

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