It was bound to happen. On Day 723 of the Sundance Film Festival (really, just Day 8, but it feels like we’ve been here for years), it snowed. Sundance is, after all, located in a ski town, so frozen precipitation falling from the sky is a thing that is known to happen, but snow during Sundance really does change the landscape of the festival. Everything instantly feels a bit more miserable and, suddenly, trooping through snowdrifts to see yet another film feels like the biggest chore in the world.
But it really is the best chore, and when you’re about to troop through snowdrifts to finally (finally) see one of the festival’s instantly-beloved premieres, The Spectacular Now, it really doesn’t feel so bad.
The Spectacular Now arrived at the festival with a perfect Sundance pedigree already intact – it’s directed by James Ponsoldt, who brought his Smashed to the festival last year (where it, and its star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who also appears in Spectacular, received very solid acclaim) and it was adapted by the dudes who wrote (500) Days of Summer, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber – so of course it was going to do well. But The Spectacular Now should do well anywhere, because it’s a very special film, a deeply heartfelt and realistic coming-of-age teen drama that should resonate with all sorts of viewers. Stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller both turn in wonderful, lived-in performances that only affirm what we’ve been saying for awhile – they are both going to be big, big stars.
Ponsoldt’s film, based on Tim Tharp’s novel of the same name, takes the ol’ “bad boy falls for good girl” teen movie trope and fleshes it out to attain a level of veracity that something like She’s All That could never even remotely dream of reaching. Teller plays the hard-drinking and easy-living Sutter Keely, a high school senior who lives to have a good time and to get smashed while doing it. When he wakes up on a stranger’s lawn one morning (drunk as a skunk, naturally), it’s the awkward Aimee Finicky (Woodley) who is desperately trying to rouse him from his slumber. The two embark on a friendship that almost instantly becomes something more – but is Sutter really interested in the awkward Aimee, or is he just looking to show someone else how to live in “the spectacular now”?
Post-Spectacular, I was perhaps a touch too excited to get a drink (okay, fine, maybe I cried, I don’t know) and settle in for a real meal while the snow continued to come down outside. Having a chance for a full meal during Sundance doesn’t come along too often, so I jumped at the opportunity to tuck into some meatloaf and mashed potatoes at Sundance HQ, steeling myself for wet weather.
Of course, that’s exactly when it stopped snowing, and all the better, because that’s exactly when I needed to change hotels, from the spacious and well-located Park Regency to the somewhat less spacious and less well-located Yarrow Hotel, thanks to an airline snafu that left me in need of a spare night somewhere else. Many thanks to the Yarrow for having an available room, for providing a discounted rate, and for letting us check in early. Also, sweet Jesus, thank you for having your own Starbucks.
I decided to skip an evening screening of S-VHS for a number of reasons: I don’t need to review it, I need to work, and – oh, yeah – everyone else I know has already seen the film and there’s no way in hell that I will be able to sit through that one alone (I need hand-holding during horror films). I will, however, absolutely catch this one later. After all, I loved the first one.
And where did Thursday night take me? Well, to more writing, to more beers, and to a late dinner with friends at the unfortunately-named Squatters restaurant (great tomato bisque there, though). We fell asleep to the sounds of Matt Damon one-upping Jimmy Kimmel on his own show, chugging off to dreamland and on to another day at Sundance heaven.