It's been a surprisingly good summer for better-than-average coming-of-age movies (The Way, Way Back, Kings of Summer, The To-Do List), and here's another. James Ponsoldt's dramedy recounts the awkward friendship that blossoms into sweet, but still stumbling romance between a high school's party clown, Sutter, and Aimee, the sweet nerd girl he never noticed. Sutter is portrayed by Miles Teller, who channels early John Cusack and redeems himself here after appearing in some dreadful teen comedies, and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) is Aimee.
Though sweet and funny, Spectacular digs deeper, past its mismatched rom-com plot into darker territory. Sutter lives in the jokey, boozy present where he doesn't have to grow up or confront hard truths; he's an alcoholic and a disappointment. Aimee is smart and focused, but she's too forgiving of Sutter, and too terrified how losing her new status as a girlfriend to call him on his bullshit.
Occasionally Spectacular feels overly scripted (you'll know every beat of Sutter's reunion with his deadbeat dad, played by Kyle Chandler), and the story scrimps on Aimee, developing her mostly in her relationship to Sutter. But the two leads are charming and winsome, capturing the pair's wonderful, terrible, maybe-it'll-be-OK co-dependency.