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Archive for the spectacular now

To hell with all problems and barriers. Nothing matters but the Spectacular Now.

Looking back, I don’t even know why I decided to pick up this Tim Tharp book back in June 2013.  It might be because I heard Shailene Woodley would be starring in the film adaptation and I was dying to figure out why Hollywood thought Woodley would be the face of every YA film adaptation (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars).  I’ve seen a couple of minutes of The Secret Life of an American Teenager and I wasn’t convinced she would accurately portray the female characters I have already bonded with through the pages of a book.  (To be honest, I could not stand The Secret Life…I literally had to will myself to forget the 2 minutes I spent watching an episode, fearful I lost a few necessary brain cells from the horrific dialogue.)  So to say that I welcomed the idea of Shailene Woodley with an open mind would be an outright lie.

But forget all that.  This post isn’t to commend or condemn the talents of Ms. Woodley (I’ll admit, she was great in The Spectacular Now).  This post will serve as my rant against this movie adaptation.

Having read the book prior to seeing the movie, I had my expectations.  I knew what was going to happen.  And I was interested in seeing how the movie industry would accurately portray the themes of the book–which included a sense of alienation, hopelessness, and just overall numbness.

I guess I should first state that I liked this book.  It was sad but not your typical sad–no one dies.  Their love story wasn’t one of fireworks.  Yet it was nothing like any other YA book I have ever read and for that reason alone, I think I like it even more.

A little background–Sutter Keely is this life-of-the-party senior high school student who takes nothing seriously and drinks almost 90% of the time.  His girlfriend breaks up with him because of is lackadaisical personality and then he meets Aimee Finicky.  Aimee is this quiet, push-over who seems content with having an almost mundane existence.  As the two get closer, Aimee comes out of her shell…but it’s a little bit like the blind leading the blind.  Because Sutter is in no position to be a role model.  He isn’t even in a position to be a mediocre boyfriend.  Since the book was told entirely in Sutter’s POV and his mindset was always skewed due to alcohol or some misconception, the reader never really even got a true sense of his feelings for Aimee.  One thing’s for sure though, his feelings wasn’t enough.  It didn’t even compare.  At first, I thought Aimee gave him the chance to be a better person, to start a new life, to be nothing like his alcoholic father.  But in retrospect, Aimee wasn’t a great character either.  She wasn’t strong-willed; she depended on Sutter, the worst person to depend on, for crying out loud!  They were doomed to fail.  So where was the salvation?  Where is the moment when we feel relieved that the characters found their way out of the darkness?  When do we, as the audience, give the protagonists a thumbs up for not succumbing to the demons of alcoholism or mediocrity or blind dependence?   I’ll tell you right now, Tim Tharp doesn’t give you the satisfaction.  The book ends with Sutter standing outside of a bar, wasted, thinking to himself:

“Goodbye.  Goodbye.  I can’t feel you anymore.  The night is almost too beautifully pure for my soul to contain.  I walk with my arms spread open under the big fat moon…Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now.”

You’re getting the idea of what I meant by alienation, hopelessness, and numbness, right?

Well, imagine my surprise when the movie did NOT end like that.  Hollywood inserts this bullshit scene with Sutter and his mom which was supposed to serve as an explanation/resolution for why he is the way that he is and then he does the “right” thing and visits/surprises Aimee at college.  And the film cuts with Aimee’s surprised smile.


Roger Ebert started his review of this film with “[h]ere is a lovely film…”

And I remember thinking, lovely?!  I don’t remember that book being “lovely”.  Then I saw the movie.  And there’s really only one word to describe how I felt:


Imagine 50 years from now.  They decide to recreate the movie Titanic.  And the 50-year older version of yourself walks into the theater expecting maybe better graphics, a deleted scene surfacing–but instead, you get an ending in which Jack Dawson doesn’t die.  He and Rose live happily ever after.  How would you feel about that?

Maybe you’ll feel elated that at least this time you get the happy ending.  Life is already shit, why can’t fictional characters be happy–all that bullshit.

But if you’re like me…I’d be livid.  Because you know, you KNOW that was not supposed to happen.  That’s how I feel about the movie The Spectacular Now.  To say it is a loose adaptation of the book is a downright lie.  It missed the whole point of the book.  It is so completely off that I feel offended the movie industry even had the nerve to call this by the same title.

I was left dumbfounded.  How could Tim Tharp allow this to happen to his book?  How did the screenwriters even begin to try to pull this off?  And then I thought about the why.  Why did they release a movie so far from the truth?  Did they think we couldn’t handle the dismal undertone of the book?

And that offends me even more.

Yeah, the world is shitty.  And yeah, I’m a sucker for happy endings.  But don’t feed me the sugar-coated, bullshit version of a resolution.  I’ll take the red pill every time–because I’d rather have the shitty truth than the illusion of happiness.

I saw this movie with my roommates on a random Friday night and after hours of me ranting about it, they stated that they much preferred the movie ending–if it did end like how the book did, they would have been pissed.  So all in all, they liked it.

And of course, nobody I know has read the book…my sister hated the movie (yay!) without even having read the book (when I told her the actual ending, she said she would not have liked it any better, lol).  So I had nobody else to turn to.  And 1,000+ words later, I feel a little less angry.

As an aspiring writer, I would hate my book to be…misinterpreted?  No.  Butchered, is the right word.  There’s just something about having an idea in its truest nature.  If I was Tim Tharp, I’d feel as if whoever “adapted” my book disrespected me as a writer, as a thinker.  But on the flip side, there have been numerous times in which I read a book and felt it be a part of me.  So is it right for the author to lay all claims to a publicly released fiction when others may feel so strongly about it as well?  Or do we all, as the audience or the readers, all partake in its existence?  And if that’s the case, can there ever be a right or wrong way to interpret a physical manifestation of creativity?

Bottom line:  I hated the movie.  I liked the book.  But isn’t that always the case?