The Spectacular Now is a coming-of-age story about Sutter Keely (played by Miles Teller), a high-school senior who resembles a charming, chubby-faced Elvis. Keely is a popular burnout who medicates everything in his life—breakups, questions about his estranged dad, even his job as a tie salesman in his nondescript little town—with an unending fountain of alcohol. But his motto "Live in the now!" becomes harder to live by as the teen begins to realize that his "now" is a continuous, delusional, drunken state of being. Graduation is approaching. Will Keely become another town deadbeat or manage to pull his shit together and do something with his life?
Keely's love interest, Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), plays the devoted good girl with cringing perfection—the kind of softhearted teen who apologizes for her abusers. As the movie progresses, Finicky matures and her personality takes on the quiet strength of a woman with a purpose: college. In contrast to Finicky's growing autonomy, Keely's confidence begins to unravel as his "now" is engulfed by his hazy future and his parents' ugly past.
If you enjoyed 500 Days of Summer, you will probably enjoy The Spectacular Now, which was adapted from a Tim Tharp novel by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. All of the teens in the film look and act like real teenagers. They're smart kids with skin problems who drink too much in a sloppy, unglorified way. In the absence of caring adults, they're raising themselves, which means they're often cruel. They drunk-drive every damn place. Their sex is so very awkward. They resent their parents, who deserve resenting (especially Keely's deadbeat dad, magnificently played by Kyle Chandler). In the end, it's Now's attention to detail and determination not to become another coming-of-age caricature that makes the film so good.