Some Ramblings - The Spectacular Now (2013) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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Oscar Bait
Fall...trees start turning their colored coats inside out and eventually shed their old wear and gear clearing out their warehouses in what becomes their final blowout season... Coincidentally, it is also time when movie studios bring their artsy features out of the closet, ones that they have held out until the hoarse-y summer's din died down. So snuggle up in the fall jackets and settle down for the Oscar fare where the sensitive battle it out with the subtle, where strong stories stake their ground out in the fertile land of varied imaginations....

Call it a 'teenage movie' and the content is presumed to come prefabricated with gratuitous amounts of ribald, risque and juvenile material and the only 'adult' content pertains to the frivolous investigation of the carnal know-how. The tag 'teenage' is both a boon and bane for movies, boon, for, if done right, even crass content has the potential of raking in great returns at the turnstiles ('Animal House', 'Fast times at the Ridgemont High', 'American Pie') and bane, because they are never taken seriously and are always assumed to be interested only in matters relating to the changing of their bodies. To give credit though, sexual awakening is also part of the growth process and there is absolutely nothing wrong in exploring the issue, even if comedically. But sadly, bowing to the box office pressures, the buck stops there itself. But what about the other myriad of mysteries that surround and confound the life of a teenager, like the painful transition into adulthood mercilessly stripped off the privileges and leeways enjoyed as a 'kid' till that time and thrust with a new set of burdens and responsibilities, all this with still underdeveloped faculties; like dealing with the constant societal pressure of living up to near impossible standards of propriety and decorum and peer pressure of living out of one's skin, something the raging hormones inside have a serious say about; like clumsily adjusting to the opposite sex, who were only 'friends' till not so long ago and suddenly became a puzzle to solve, unchartered territory to explore and inexplicable mechanism to decipher. The pitfalls and problems are aplenty and the potential in mining each of these for meaningful conclusions is just as great.

Once in a blue moon does a movie appear that ventures outside the boundaries of ordinariness seeming to really 'get' the life of a typical teenager. John Hughes, in the 80s, considered to be the father of teenager fare ('16 candles', 'Breakfast Club') captured the struggles of the teenager dealing with the evolution inside and coping with the change outside on a consistent basis. He then passed the mantle to Cameron Crowe who continued the tradition with 'Say Anything', 'Almost Famous'. After a long time here is 'The Spectacular Now' (with creditable mention to the previous year's 'The perks of being a wallflower') that brought back the pain and poignancy into the most defining time in one's life. The movie is all about conversations - adult, mature, confident, awkward and normal - the kind that happen in real life. And the best thing about it, how all these conversations appear natural and free flowing as against sounding beautifully scripted. Though it starts off in the usual teenage movie way, with boozing, chasing (skirts) and scoring, the way it effortless switches gears first while tackling with budding romance and second, dealing with the fallout of broken relationship with a parent, speaks volumes of the maturity of the script and the ability of the director in respecting and responding to the material. Not enough could be said about its lead pair, who truly realize into real people the words and characters on page, right from the awkwardness at the start of the courting, the dropping of the guards to reveal their true selves during, down to the final showdown with the trouble when it finally makes the landfall. With minimal setup and little else happening in these kinds of movies, a lot depends on the strength of its writing and the effectiveness of its actors in delivering the writing. Rare are movies, specially in this demographic, that are able to pull it off with some surety, and better, look competent justifying its stellar title.

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