The Spectacular Now: Interview with director James Ponsoldt

As director James Ponsoldt strolled up to a red carpet in front of the Regal Hollywood 20, he looked more like a ticket holder looking for the stand-by line than a filmmaker ready to walk the press line to see his own film. He quietly spoke to security to ask instructions on what to do before the guards shouted to the press that the guest of honor had arrived. “This has all been really overwhelming,” he told SRQ Backlot afterwards.

But the Ponsoldt-directed The Spectacular Now, regardless of the filmmakers humility, has been a success story of the festival. Billed as the narrative centerpiece film for the festival, the one showing this year was a sellout performance.

Not bad for what at first blush seems a simple love story between teenagers. The film follows the story of Sutter Keely (played by Miles Teller, whose parents swung by the theater for the screening) and his budding romance with “good girl” Aimee Finecky (played by Shailene Woodley, still riding rave reviews for her work in The Descendents).

Ponsoldt said the story harkens back to such classic romance films as Splendor in the Grass. I hope audiences feel like it is an honest love story, and a mature love story about two characters who happen to be teenagers,” he said. “For someone my age, I hope it can remind people what it was like to be a teenager.”

He said it is surprising more films like The Spectacular Now get made today and hopes this film’s success validates the genre to an extent. “People have an appetite for it,” he said. “Studios assume a teen movie has to have T&A, or that the teens have to have superpowers or something. To me, the only important thing is to be honest and that means trusting in the audience.”

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