Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Spectacular Now vs. The Lifeguard, two films with confused and insecure protagonists who find themselves in unanticipated romances.
PremiseThe Lifeguard and The Spectacular Now focus on the leap between adolescence to adulthood, be it at 18 or 29. Things aren’t going well for 18-year-old Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), the main character of The Spectacular Now. Sure, he’s popular and funny, but his girlfriend (Brie Larson) has just dumped him, his father is nowhere to be found, he’s got no post-high school plan, and he’s an alcoholic. At first glance, Leigh London (Kristen Bell) seems to have things a bit more together than her younger counterpart. She has a job as a reporter for Associated Press in New York and doesn’t seem to be struggling with any sort of addiction. As Leigh states in the trailer, however, her life isn’t working out the way she wants, so she quits her job, quits the city, moves in with her parents in Connecticut, and takes a job as a lifeguard.Advantage: The Spectacular Now
Coming of AgeThe Lifeguard reverses the narrative of the typical “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” helping out that brooding male protagonist—this time, the woman is the one in need of motivation to embrace life. Leigh is desperately searching for happiness, but something tells us a relationship with a 16-year-old is not the best way to go about it. Leigh’s actions are more destructive than productive, and she could learn a thing or two about maturing from Sutter. As The Spectacular Now character tries to figure out where he is heading after his senior year, Sutter changes from a hard partier who won’t leave his flask behind to a young man who realizes he wants more than to follow in the footsteps of his drunken, estranged father.Advantage: The Spectacular Now
Uncomfortable RomancesWhile his friends may find it strange that the super-cool Sutter is wasting his senior year on the geeky girl next door, Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), in actuality the couple is fairly realistic. Aimee finds herself enamored with the bad-boy nature of her first boyfriend, and Sutter realizes that Aimee deserves more. Though Leigh in The Lifeguard is older and presumably ready for a serious relationship, she may as well have been placed in the same high school as The Spectacular Now cast, since her love interest is the 16-year-old son of her boss. Not only do her family and friends disapprove, but also we’re pretty sure the law would call that statutory rape.Advantage: The Lifeguard
DirectorDirectors James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and Liz W. Garcia (The Lifeguard) are both fairly new to the movie industry. Liz W. Garica is better known as a television writer and producer (her credits include Dawson’s Creek and Wonderfalls), but that didn’t hold her back her from writing, directing, and producing The Lifeguard. With little to no glamour—rumors has it the cast didn’t even have a trailer—Garcia managed to fit in all the shooting for the movie in 21 days. Although Spectacular Now will only be James Ponsoldt’s third feature film, the director already made a name for himself in the industry with his second film Smashed. Ponsoldt was approached and given the script for this novel-turned-movie by the (500) Days of Summer team, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, demonstrating that he is clearly a director in demand—not to mention that the movie just won the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance.Advantage: The Spectacular Now
CastThough she may not be playing a popular pregnant junior anymore, Shailene Woodley can’t seem to break out of the high school roles. The 21-year-old Secret Life star told us that she is drawn to roles that focus around “controversial issues” that are dealt with in a “real manner,” so we assume that the underage substance abuse and search for identity is what lead Woodley to The Spectacular Now. Woodley also has three other films in the works—White Birds in a Blizzard, The Fault in Our Stars, and Divergent—however, she isn’t the only rising star in this upcoming movie. Miles Teller has also been making a name for himself with his stunning turn in Rabbit Hole. Kristen Bell, on the other hand, has been around for a while: making her way on Broadway, staring in the three year television series Veronica Mars, and appearing in over 20 films. The actress is more prominently known for her work in television and is hoping that her role in The Lifeguard will give her a more noteworthy name in the movie industry. Advantage: The Spectacular Now
VerdictWhile both films center around an unpredictable love story, the storyline of The Lifeguard seems a bit drastic and a tad creepy on the part of Leigh. A more believable coming of age story, the genuine connection and sincerity between Sutter and Aimee in The Spectacular Now will pull at your heartstrings.Advantage: The Spectacular Now
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