Film 365

The Spectacular Now directed by James Ponsoldt

Movie adaptations are tricky when it comes to the-book-was-better crowd. Most of us scoff at the very idea that a good book could translate well as movie. Though several have managed to hold a flame to their literary counterparts, I’m often reminded by my filmmaker friend’s words, “They’re two different mediums. You can’t compare them. One doesn’t have to remain faithful to the other.” And, in a way, it’s true. Nobody every picks up a novelization of a film and point at the page and complain about how that didn’t happen in the movie.

Spectactular Now movie posterThere are a few movies that manage to tell a better story than their novels. How to Train Your Dragon comes to mind. Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar became superb (fine, I’m only talking about Kick-Ass and its sequel here) films on the big screen.

The Spectacular Now kept me guessing. I liked the book, but disliked the story. Starting off by plowing through the early character development, the film started off as a disappointment. Coupled with poor casting choices—Shailene Woodley as Aimee raised the same question as Shia being cast in Transformers. Miles Teller as Sutter Keely left a metallic flavor in my mouth. The altering of Cassidy’s voluptuous figure to the Hollywood teenage girl crushed the spirit of love who you are. How can you when the film industry keeps telling you that anything more than below average isn’t sexy? Even Aimee’s best friend suffered from film liposuction.

However, as the film progressed, I became more accepting of Teller’s Sutter and tolerated Woodley’s Aimee. And everything I disliked about the book was mended in the film. So what if it’s typical? Sometimes, you want the character you’re rooting for to realize the errors of his way and make up for them. We want redemption even if it’s not your cookie-cutter ending.

I wanted Sutter Keely to grow up in the book, not just become accepting that others are growing up around him.

The Spectacular Now is available for Amazon Instant Video, DVD, and Blu-ray.


The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Where was Tim Tharp as I sat in creative writing class being torn apart by my contemporaries and professor for creating a unlovable character and throwing him into an adventure where he doesn’t learn a lesson? Sure, Sutter Keely might come off as your typical, everyday high school party goer. And sure, he might seem charming. And sure he might get the gist of knowing he has to grow up, but in The Spectacular Now I’m left wondering if he will ever get his head straight and start thinking about something other than the now.

The Spectacular NowDo not mistake charming for lovable. Sutter Keely will steal your heart and make you smile throughout the book with his misguided, quasi-jaded philosophy that puts Holden Caulfield to shame. There is no denying, however, that Sutter is a teenage alcoholic bound to grow up into an adult alcoholic. He’s disappointed with people who don’t embrace his idea of fun and living life. Still, you read through the book with the understanding that this is a coming of age novel. That Sutter will eventually have to grow up. And after seeing what’s in store for his future, watching his friends growing up around him, the reader expects an epiphany, a change. Screw up after screw up, mishap after mishap, trouble after trouble

Tim Tharp, however, doesn’t deliver that to the reader. The Hollywood ending doesn’t do Sutter justice because it’s just a manipulation of the atomic vampires in charge. And while I can’t help but to admire that this book just proved my creative writing class wrong, I still feel cheated.

Even through all the good of the book, the lackluster ending where the narrator learns absolutely nothing even though reflections of his future cheer him on, stare him in the face, ditch him constantly, he keeps on trucking as God’s own drunk. Romanticizing his dead-beat father until he becomes a carbon copy image of the bastard. The only lessons he learns he quickly forgets with his big 7Up and whisky.

Still the amazing ability of getting into his main character’s psyche proves that Tim Tharp is a writer that will get young adults to sit down and read. There isn’t a boring moment within the pages. And the information is delivered without the fluff that makes most books tedious to read at that age. The sort of writer that I yearned for growing up.

So if you’re willing to go along from the drunken ride and test your sobriety, it’s time you curled up with Tim Tharp’s novel.

About the book (from

This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture — one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Ember, 9 July 2013 (movie tie-in cover)
ISBN: 978-0385754309

You can purchase a copy of The Spectacular Now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. An e-book edition is available for Kindle and Nook.