Review: “Someday This Pain WIll Be Useful to You”

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things I Woke Up Early the Day I Died The Last Time I Committed Suicide.

What do these three films have in common?

Fascinating title. Lousy movie.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You tells the story of a Manhattan teen questioning his sexuality, his sanity, his future, and pretty much anything else that involves himself. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Peter Cameron, the film clearly loses something in the translation – because all that’s left on the screen is a cliched, limp, and crushingly dull coming-of-age story that wastes both a stellar cast and a chance to explore the development of sexual identity from a fresh angle.

Toby Regbo

James Sveck (Toby Regbo) is a New York City teen possessed of an appropriately awkward/memorable last name, an appropriately dysfunctional family (Mom’s a kooky art dealer! Dad’s a vain, rich suit! Big sis dates her teacher and is obsessed with becoming famous!), and the appropriate amount of wry, cosmopolitan angst. He’s also probably gay but is the last person to realize it. (Okay, been there.)

James is really pretty unremarkable, but that doesn’t stop him from obsessing over himself to the point where he starts having panic attacks and contemplating either buying real estate or killing himself. After a botched attempt to flirt with his mother’s hunky gay gallery manager, he decides to meet with a life coach (Lucy Liu), and they go jogging.

Aaaaaaaand that’s about it.

Deborah Ann Woll and Marcia Gay Harden

Someday’s biggest problem is that it’s utterly unoriginal. Its characters, relationships and story are just too familiar and stock by this point – it’s as though a box set of Sundance Selects became sentient and took it upon itself to write a new Marcia Gay Harden vehicle. Or someone fed a season of Gossip Girl marathon after midnight and it lost all its soapy ridiculousness.

Burstyn with real fruit flavor?

Without any surprises or fresh insights to offer, the film leaves us waiting for something interesting to happen, which of course gives us plenty of time to pick apart every detail: Why does James seriously contemplate suicide in the opening scene, never to display that kind of behavior again? Where did they find all these awful soft pop songs? And why am I expected to feel remotely sorry for a rich kid with a faboo grandma and seemingly no restrictions or curfew whose parents pay for him to hang out with Lucy Liu?

 

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