The Spectacular Now at Sundance

In an age when the phrase “teen drama” suggests hardscrabble dystopias or lovelorn werewolves, what’s extraordinary about The Spectacular Now is how ordinary it is. The leads are two kids that could be from any town in America, and their romance is neither epic nor star-crossed. Stories like this one surely play out dozens of times a day all over the world.

But despite that ordinariness, or more likely because of it, The Spectacular Now is also one of the best teen dramas of recent years. Under the direction of James Ponsoldt (Smashed), The Spectacular Now is a pitch-perfect depiction of adolescence, warm and funny and sad without ever veering into forced sentimentality.

It’s a tough balance to pull off, and during a recent press stop in New York I got the opportunity to ask him how he managed to get it right. We also talked about why the kids in The Spectacular Now drink so much, how he took advantage of Kyle Chandler‘s Coach Taylor image, and which Arrested Development star he’d love to work with. Hit the jump to read the full interview. (Some spoilers for The Spectacular Now follow.)

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David Foster Wallace

I’m as big a fan of actor Jason Segel and writer David Foster Wallace as anyone in this world. But are they two great tastes that taste great together, as the Reese’s slogan goes, or are they better kept separate? We’ll find out when James Ponsoldt‘s The End of the Tour gets underway.

Segel is attached to play the Infinite Jest author in the fact-based project, which also stars Jesse Eisenberg as the journalist writing an article about him. Get plot details and more after the jump.

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US-Secretary-of-State-Hillary-Clinton

Briefly: Lionsgate may be the studio to make a Hillary Clinton film. James Ponsoldt could direct as his follow-up to The Spectacular Now. The script, called Rodham, was written by Young Il Kim, and ended up on the Black List of popular unproduced screenplays in 2012.

Deadline reports that the script “covers Hillary when she was a hotshot young lawyer in D.C. and was torn between flourishing in Capitol Hill or going back to Arkansas to rekindle a relationship with her ex-boyfriend, a law teacher named Bill Clinton, who didn’t want to leave home.”

This isn’t the first recent effort to make a Hillary Clinton biopic; NBC and CNN each had it’s own plan to make either a mini-series or documentary about her, but both were blocked due to press from both sides of the political aisle, and reluctance of potential sources to participate. The Republican National Committee reportedly also argued that creating such films would represent unusual bias on the part of NBC and CNN.

There’s no cast in talks for this project yet.

The Spectacular Now

As a thank you to all our glorious /Film readers, we’re offering free tickets to see James Ponsoldt‘s lovely, impressive coming of age story The Spectacular Now in a city near you. The film stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley and opens August 2 in New York and Los Angeles, and nationwide August 23.

We have tickets in twelve cities from coast to coast so click below and see if your town is included. (Here’s a hint, New York and Los Angeles aren’t on there.) Read More »

The Spectacular Now

In James Ponsoldt‘s last film, Smashed, binge-drinking helped tear two married people apart. In his new one, The Spectacular Now, it brings two very different teens together, albeit in an unexpected way.

Miles Teller stars as popular, hard-partying Sutter, who drinks himself to oblivion one night after getting dumped by his girlfriend. He wakes up on the lawn of a classmate, sweet sci-fi geek Aimee (Shailene Woodley). Despite their differences, the two find themselves inexorably drawn together.

That setup may not sound like much of anything special, but the rave reviews out of Sundance indicate that Ponsoldt makes the most of it. Check out the first trailer and poster after the jump.

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Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan is unmistakably British, but her recent roles have brought her more and more frequently to this side of the Atlantic. Her most recent role saw her playing one of American literature’s most iconic dream girls, and her next release puts her in the middle of the ’60s folk scene in New York City.

Now Mulligan’s looking likely to portray another famous American figure: politician Hillary Clinton. Though she’s just one of several actresses in contention for the James Ponsoldt-directed biopic Rodham, a new report indicates that she’s currently the frontrunner for the part. Hit the jump for more details.

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Who’s ready to think about next year’s Oscar race? Paramount has just announced a November 15 release for Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, putting the crime drama right in the thick of prestige pic season. It already has some stiff competition lined up for that day, including Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, Grudge Match, and The Best Man Holiday. Don’t be surprised to see that lineup shift again before we get there.

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, chronicling his dramatic rise and fall on Wall Street in the ’90s. Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin also star.

After the jump, find out release dates for The Bling Ring and The Spectacular Now.

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A few days after the kickoff the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, deal-making is in full swing. The well-reviewed drama The Spectacular Now, by Smashed director James Ponsoldt, is headed to newish distributor A24, while the crowdpleasing comedy Austenland, from Napoleon Dynamite writer Jerusha Hess, is nearing a deal with FilmDistrict. Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan‘s The Look of Love had a mixed reception, but that’s not stopping IFC Films from closing in on a deal; the distributor also released the pair’s last comedy together, The Trip. Meanwhile, Anchor Bay has picked up two narrative features so far, the Dermot Mulroney-starring The Rambler and Leland Orser‘s Morning. (The latter is not playing at Sundance.)

Over in the world of documentaries, music-centric films seem to be doing quite well. Showtime has acquired the broadcast rights to the two-part documentary History of the Eagles, which will air on the channel February 15 & 16. Also headed to television is Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, which has been snapped up by HBO Documentary Films. Finally, Twenty Feet From Stardom, which follows some of popular music’s greatest backup singers, will get a theatrical release by RADiUS-TWC. And in non-music news, AMC’s Sundance Selects has grabbed Dirty Wars, about America’s covert wars, and The Summit, about climbers scaling the most dangerous peak in the world.

Hit the jump to read descriptions of the films mentioned above.

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At the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, I was blown away by a film called (500) Days of Summer. When I interviewed director Marc Webb in Park City that year, he exclusively revealed that he was working with the 500 Days writing team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber on a adaptation of Tim Tharp‘s The Spectacular Now. Then, hot off the success of Summer, Webb got pulled away to do some little superhero movie reboot.

Cut to the 2010 Sundance Film Festival: Smashed became one of the top buzz films of the festival with a critically acclaimed tour de force performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and an incredibly raw filmmaking style that put director James Ponsoldt on our must-watch list. So when it was announced that Ponsoldt would be taking over as director on The Spectacular Now, we were excited. And the movie does not disappoint.

The Spectacular Now is everything I hope a Sundance movie to be. It has heart, many laughs, story twists that will jolt you from your seat, and most importantly, the film speaks to a deep truth. It is an honest coming of age film about growing up and facing the great unknown that comes after high school, something we can all remember and relate to. But it tells that story without the forced nostalgia of other Hollywood films.

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