Why you should care

Because seeing tomorrow’s stars today lets you know who to avoid tomorrow. And who to seek out.

The surprise and delight of The Spectacular Now, out on DVD January 14, is that it’s a truthful movie about adolescent intimacy. For that to happen, many special elements must come together, like the great and genuine talents of actors Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. He’s officially the film’s protagonist; she’s its soul.

It’s a privilege to witness the fragile beauty of their relationship. Woodley plays a shy and bookish young lady, understandably attracted to Teller’s charming, self-destructive egoist. But one thing she makes clear early on is that she’s not there to save him. And in fact, every time director James Ponsoldt seems to want to revert to movie formula, it’s the actors, especially Woodley, who intuitively crumple up that formula and throw it away. It helps too that adapting Tim Tharp’s novel has allowed screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber to transcend the narrow dude’s-eye-view of young women they put across with impunity in (500) Days of Summer.

The Spectacular Now stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. He’s officially the film’s protagonist; she’s its soul.

Which is not to say The Spectacular Now doesn’t encourage its viewers to feel protective or even possessive of Woodley. Having honed her craft in TV and broken onto the big screen in a big way with The Descendants, she has now fully broken through and should be flush with options. We have to trust that she’ll be strong and mindful enough to take advantage of Hollywood, instead of the other way around. We know she did three days of shooting as one of Peter Parker’s girlfriends, a part that was ultimately cut from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Reportedly they’re saving that character for the next sequel — but also planning to recast it. Meanwhile Woodley will appear in a couple of other much-anticipated young-adult adaptations, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars — the former touted as a hopeful Hunger Games-style sensation, the latter another adaptation by Neustadter and Weber — due this spring and summer respectively.

But that’s later. This is Now.

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