One of the most buzzed-about films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival has finally reached screens. James Ponsoldt, with his second feature, has crafted a thoughtful tale of high-school romance, and an interesting take on the classic “good girl and bad boy fall in love” scenario.
The plot revolves around party-hard High School Senior Sutter Keeley(Teller), who after a terrible breakup with his long-term girlfriend Cassidy(Larson), strikes up a friendship with a shy “nice girl” Amy Finnicky(Woodley), which develops into a romance.
The acting is the strongest point of the film. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley give fantastic performances in the film, and have wonderful futures ahead of them in their young careers. Kyle Chandler is a scene-stealer as Sutter’s estranged drunk father, and begs the question, why is Kyle Chandler not in more films? Bob Odenkirk also shows up for 2 scenes in an endearing performance as Sutter’s boss, and perhaps the only real father figure in Sutter’s life. When he came on screen, someone in the audience shouted “Saul!”. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mary Elizabeth Winstead both give admirable performances as Sutter’s concerned Mother and Sister as well.
I did have a few issues with the film. It did fall into predictable cliches every so often, however the acting allowed it to rise above it. I do tire of Hollywood’s attitude that “All teens drink in high school, right?”. Yes, there are groups in high school that do it, but not even to the extent that films tend to portray. And although I understand that alcoholism was a big part of Sutter’s character, the amount he and the other characters around him drink began to get a bit unbelievable(He would have a good time with Withnail and I). And while I also understand his progress as a person was hindered by his alcoholism, throughout the film he kept making more and more terrible and stupid decisions and hurting those around him that by the end it became quite hard to sympathize with him.
Regardless, James Ponsoldt delivered a solid film with great performances all around. And while it could have been less of an Alcoholism PSA, it still had a sobering message about what happens to those young people who never get past the life of partying on the weekends.