In adapting Tim Tharp’s hit novel The Spectacular Now for the screen, the biggest challenge was turning its unreliable and flawed (though sympathetic) high school narrator, Sutter Keely, into a protagonist that audiences could really get behind.
Having the ever-charming 26-year-old Miles Teller in the role was a huge help, but it was still a difficult needle to thread.
“If we did our job, then the reasons you love Sutter when the story begins are not why you love him at the end,” Michael Weber, The Spectacular Now’s co-screenwriter, told BuzzFeed. “He goes from being the class clown and the life of the party to a thoughtful young adult, more cognizant of the repercussions of his actions.”
Between the film’s critical praise — a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes — and the fact that Weber and co-writer Scott Neustadter were nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, it seems they pulled the job off with aplomb. Even more impressive was the fact that they were able to write a scene (above) in which underage Sutter drinks hard alcohol as he’s driving a child he found wandering sans parent outside the liquor store — and still have it be a heartwarming exchange.
Even though the scene made it onto the production schedule, it was eventually cut — which, as Weber noted, was probably for the best given the fact that the movie was already rated R.
“You can’t tell an honest story about young people without language, sex and drinking; being a teenager has never been, and will never be, a PG-13 experience. We knew the drinking would get us an R,” Weber explained. “Underage drinking and driving on the way to high school with a young kid riding shotgun? They’d probably bring the X rating out of mothballs for a movie with that scene!”