Lee Chandler is a handyman working in the Boston area who gets the call that his brother has died in nearby Manchester, the town they both grew up in. Lee goes back to settle his brother’s affairs which unbeknownst to him, include becoming guardian to his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). There are reasons Lee left Manchester, one of which is his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) and the emotional reasons why she is his ex-wife. Now Lee is forced to return to the town, family and memories he left behind.
The movie felt very real to me, just like a slice of somebody’s everyday life. Lee falls asleep on the couch and burns the spaghetti sauce; he has to drop off and pickup his nephew from school, from band practice, and from his dates; he has to deal with his brother’s business; and he has to sort out his life whether it is in Manchester or not. The routine, day to day things were part of the movie, which I liked. Affleck was pretty good in the lead, good enough to win the Best Actor Oscar. Michelle Williams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, which surprises me because even though she was very good in the film, she was only on the screen for maybe fifteen minutes. Is there no minimum time requirement to be nominated for a supporting role?
While the movie did feel very real, it also felt very slow at times. I suppose life doesn’t always move at the quickest pace, but I like my movies to move a little faster than the everyday. It took about three quarters of the movie for me to really become invested in these characters, and finally once I was hooked, the movie ended. There was no real resolution to things, you don’t really know the characters’ futures, life just keeps on going, but it felt like the story ended mid-paragraph. A good story leaves you wanting more, and I really did want more but I think that was because I wanted closure to the characters. Was I a little disappointed with the ending? Yes. Did I enjoy the film for the entire run? No. But, once they revealed a few key plot points, the preceding hours of the film suddenly became a lot more enjoyable to me. Definitely worth watching, but I’d say be prepared for a slow burn, and some boredom before the film actually gets good.
Bottom Line: Casey Affleck mumbles a lot… Apparently that gets you an Oscar now.
Based on the book of the same title, The Spectacular Now was getting rave reviews. I was less impressed. The story follows Sutter, a high schooler who seems to be the life of the party, and on top of the world until he gets dumped by his girlfriend and starts failing math class. Sutter it turns out is an alcoholic drinking his way through life and the movie. After getting dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) he wakes up on a strange lawn, found by Aimee (Shailene Woodley) who is delivering papers to help her parents pay the bills. Aimee is a smart girl, and a bit of a wallflower so the popular Sutter decides to give her the “boyfriend experience” in exchange for tutoring in math. Eventually Aimee falls in love with Sutter and begins drinking herself, spiralling her own life down the same path as his. Unfortunately paths that start this way have a tendency to end badly.
Sadly, this could be a very accurate growing up or coming of age story. The story itself was quite engrossing, and on a whole is rather tragic, and there were several moments that stood out, but one in particular kind of bothered me. SPOILER ALERT (but something I still have to get off my chest): Towards the end of the film Sutter and Aimee fight in his car and he pulls over and kicks her out. At that point she is struck by a car, she’s not killed, just hurt and it does advance the plot. My problem is how could this have possibly happened. They pull off to the right, she gets out of the passenger side of the car (on the right) and is hit. How on earth is there any traffic coming on that side of the car? Was the driver of the other vehicle even drunker than Sutter and swerved all the way around? Did he pull all the way over to the left hand side of the road before kicking her out of the car? I don’t know, this just seems like a ridiculous flaw in logic and traffic.
The acting was quite good, but I felt the story kind of fell apart as it was wrapping up. It’s another film where I felt the ending was being forced onto me and I was being told how to feel about what I had watched for the past hour and a half. Sutter is once again driving drunk and arrives at home, running into the mailbox in front of his mother. He’s actually feeling remorse for his actions but then she consoles him with a heavy dose of motherly love and manages to convince him that he is loved, despite his claims to the contrary. So after a pretend epiphany, a hug from mommy, and some backspacing on a keyboard we’re not supposed to see that he’s really a nice guy who loves and cares for everyone around him, even though we’ve just seen him turn a nice girl into a flask toting alcoholic. In my eyes, Sutter may have been the lead of the story, but he certainly wasn’t the hero. The happy ending just didn’t work for me, it was supposed to come off as heart-warming, but it just felt rushed to me. One moment was enough to turn the troubled Sutter around? If we’re to believe the extent of Sutter’s lack of self-esteem, a few hugs and soothing words from this mother, probably would not have turned him around so fast, in real life. Filmmakers, please don’t tell me how you want me to react to your movie all in the last few minutes. If you can’t persuade me through your ninety minutes of story you should look at the story again.
Bottom Line: Wow, lightning can strike twice. Another film that I felt was forcing an ending and a feeling on me that I didn’t agree with, and that didn’t go over so well.