The Spectacular Now was written by the screenwriters of 500 Days of Summer, and director James Pensoldt apparently respected their efforts, because The Spectacular Now is very nearly as great as 500 Days of Summer-- maybe just as great, because what it lacks in not having Zooey Deschanel it gains in having Shailene Woodley, whose final close-up does with facial expression more than I can imagine any other current performer doing.
She has the hard task of playing the sensible character in a romantic comedy, and she isn't particularly beautiful and doesn't indulge in much makeup. Neither does anybody else, the woman I talked to after the show noticed admiringly. But she hadn't noticed the only pimples I have ever seen used for thematic effect, and she hadn't noticed the only use I can think of of bad language for character development. The Spectacular Now seems so natural and real that it's easy to overlook how carefully it uses its artistic devices.
Most of the time, there are only two people on screen, and what they do is so typical of what everybody does that without the beautiful acting it would be pretty undramatic. It all seems so natural and unrehearsed that you don't notice how subtly some of it is put together, like one of the indications of growing up followed by the first shot emphasizing the pimples. And you hardly notice anomalies like a car crash that doesn't end in an orange explosion or reckless driving that actually injures an innocent person.
There's so much realism in The Spectacular Now that it almost conceals an equal amount of art. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?