|Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now|
J. and I have been on a "coming of age" kick this summer. We have now seen three such films: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Way Way Back, and The Spectacular Now, which we saw on Saturday. I think that the same resounding message has been delivered to me by all three films: high school and being a teenager generally sucks. So glad I don't have to do that again. Sure, there are lots of moments that are thrilling where you feel young and invincible, beautiful and sophisticated, on top of the world, moments when the future seems limitless and you are ready to conquer it, whatever it is. But those moments tend to be less than regular if I remember correctly.
When I was in high school, I loved the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I thought it was amazing. I even gave it to my friends, and I felt the same way about the movie. I just adored it. It is painful, but so poignant and moving. J., on the other hand, was in a funk after watching it and just kept muttering, "Oh you couldn't pay me to do that again." The Way Way Back had some great funny moments and certainly was more uplifting than Perks, but highlighted, again, the real angst in trying to figure out who you are. The Spectacular Now had a little of everything. There were some funny moments, some tragic moments, some hopeful moments...There was a scene in the movie where Sutter, the main character, asks his teacher what's so great about growing up. He says that all the adults he knows are not happy. He asks the teacher, "Are you happy?" and the teacher doesn't answer him. As both a teacher and an adult, I wanted to yell at the screen, "Yes! I am happy! You'll be happy too! It gets better!" And, if I had a student who asked me that question, I know that I could say yes and mean it, unequivocally.
Those three movies made me think about how much I like being at the age I am now, but they also highlighted something new for these kinds of movies, at least in my opinion. The kids in both The Way, Way Back and The Spectacular Now actually looked like real people. They had "real life" bodies and slightly imperfect skin. They wore clothes and did their hair like real teenagers. It might have been the most refreshing thing about those movies! The acting in The Spectacular Now was so spot on. I could think of so many kids I know saying exact lines from that movie. The realness of these three films made them each, in their own right, a pleasure to watch. But, the best part was being able to walk out of the theater with my husband, get into my car, drive back to my own place, and get back to my decidedly adult life.