“The Spectacular Now”: “Almost” Or Full-Blown Alcoholic?

In the new indie movie The Spectacular Now, lead character Sutter (Miles Teller) is a high school senior who goes nowhere without his flask of booze. He meets shy Aimee (Shailene Woodley) and develops a romance that for him is unexpected and for her is an initiation—including to the ways of the flask.

Both have some difficulties at home with their moms, and neither lives with a father, but Sutter wants to reconnect with his (Kyle Chandler). The Spectacular Now trailer sets up the basics pretty nicely:

Director James Ponsoldt has said that it’s the romance he wanted to emphasize. Thus, it’s show-not-tell when it comes to Sutter’s drinking. In other words, it’s rarely mentioned, at least not in any depth.

Most critics have diagnosed Sutter as coming short of a full-blown problem, though some do perceive the latter. Wording has included the following and more:

  • “budding alcoholic”
  • “a tendency to drink too much”
  • “a fledgling alcoholic”
  • “serious drinking problem”
  • “growing drinking habit”

What would psychiatrist Robert Doyle, MD, and psychologist Joseph Nowinski, PhD, authors of last year’s Almost Alcoholic, think? As part of Harvard’s The Almost Effect project, they take on the type of drinking issue that doesn’t quite fit the standard diagnosis for alcoholism—but nonetheless brings with it extra life problems.

Almost a third of drinkers are in a problem category, they report; many of this group have the “almost” or “subclinical” type of alcoholism.

CBS News lists “10 Signs You Might Have a Problem” (adapted from the book). A few yeses can mean you’re almost there. A majority of yeses may mean you’re already there.

  1. You drink to relieve stress.
  2. You drink alone.
  3. You look forward to drinking.
  4. Your drinking may be related to one or more health problems.
  5. You drink to relieve boredom or loneliness.
  6. You drive after drinking.
  7. You drink to maintain a “buzz.”
  8. Your performance at work is not what it used to be.
  9. You aren’t comfortable in social situations where there is no drinking.
  10. You find that drinking helps you overcome your shyness.

What I believe is that Sutter’s already there. Go see this highly praised, very well-acted, and meaningful movie, and decide for yourself.

The following videos feature authors co-authors Doyle and Nowinski, respectively, Q & A style:

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