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'The Spectacular Now' spotlights young love like it used to be

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a summer dominated by big budget, action-packed blockbusters geared toward young adults, the writers of "The Spectacular Now" wanted to harken back to the angst-ridden romance films of the 1980s and shine a spotlight on the complexity of young love.

"The Spectacular Now," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, was adapted from Tim Tharp's book of the same name by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, the writers behind the 2009 indie hit film "(500) Days of Summer."

Inspired by filmmakers such as Cameron Crowe, who directed 1989's "Say Anything," and John Hughes, who directed 1985's American teen story "The Breakfast Club," Neustadter and Weber wanted to showcase young love in an intimate setting, centered by two young leads, Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.

"We had been disappointed in how they (Hollywood) have been making romantic comedies for a while, and how they were making movies about young people. It seemed like the movies were the metaphor of being a vampire, or having super powers or high jinks sex with a baked good," Weber said.

"The movies we fell in love with as kids ... were those of Cameron Crowe and John Hughes. Those movies didn't rely on that - it seemed to come much more from a real place," he added.

The film focuses on Sutter, a charismatic teenager with a drinking problem, played by Teller, as he graduates from high school and deliberates what direction he wants to take in life and how he handles his first love, Aimee, played by Woodley.

Woodley, 21, gained critical praise for her role as a rebellious daughter in 2010's "The Descendants," while Teller, 26, has been gaining prominence in R-rated comedies such as "21 & Over." Teller said he was drawn to the duality of his character's emotions.

"I wanted to make him a real person, I wanted to bring that charisma that draws people in, and then I wanted to build in that kid who doesn't have a dad ... having vulnerability in there because he's a sad clown really," the actor said.

'NOT A MESSAGE MOVIE'

Amid the teenage love story are darker undertones, as Sutter tries to numb with alcohol the painful absence of his father. The movie features many scenes dealing with underage drinking and driving, such as Sutter driving inebriated across town and hitting a lamppost.

Neustadter and Weber said they deliberately left out any serious consequences for drinking and driving, as they felt it was a more realistic portrayal of how the issue is handled.

"The mission all along was that it was a real love story. This isn't a movie about drinking or partying, although we wanted to be honest in our portrayal of those things. It's not a message movie, it's not an after school special," Weber said.

Both Woodley and Teller supported the decision for their characters not suffer serious consequences for drinking and driving. Woodley said it raised awareness that the issue needs to be looked at more closely.

"I think it's really great that it is in this movie and that there aren't any consequences, because it's an authentic realistic look that there needs to be consequences. Drinking and driving is so incredibly selfish," Woodley said.

Furthermore, with the film garnering an R-rating due to the use of alcohol, explicit language and sex scenes, Woodley said it was targeted at an audience outside of high school teenagers.

"It's more of a movie for adults than it is for teenagers and I think just to take away nostalgic feelings of being in high school again and falling for that person and being reminded of that special moment in time," Woodley said.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Doina Chiacu)

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