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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

2011 | 95 min | R | 2.39:1

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You


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Theatrical release date

 05 October, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 4, 2012

Here’s a film that assumes a great deal of its characters and situations are interesting and, in some cases, deeply sympathetic. How wrong “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You” is. A conventional exploration of a young, troubled soul living an affluent life in New York City, the feature is disorganized and unpleasant, aching to reach some form of emotional vulnerability, only to spotlight a story without severity, lacking an abyssal sense of violation and soulful agony that typically informs such angsty endeavors. It’s not exactly a trainwreck of a movie, but “Someday This Pain” is so void of depth and meaning, it often resembles a parody of the bruised teen subgenre.

James Sveck (Tony Regbo) is 18-years-old and about to pass on a college career. His father Paul (Peter Gallagher) is a wealthy financial wizard, while mother Marjorie (Marcia Gay Harden) owns a modern art gallery, leaving James with plenty of money to play with, but no discernible ambition. Close to grandmother Nanette (Ellen Burstyn), James prefers solitude, with an incident involving a panic attack triggered during a field trip to Washington D.C. weighing heavily on his mind, requiring the support of life coach Hilda (Lucy Liu), who attempts to locate the source of James’s anxiety. Working out his feelings for gallery boss John (Gilbert Owuor) while fighting his parents on his educational future, James finds himself lost in the big city, unable to attain the proper focus required to pass into adulthood, leaving him alone to deal with his increasing fears.

“Someday This Pain” has a serious case of the adaptation blues, with screenwriters Robert Faenza (who also directs) and Dahlia Heyman laboring to bring the nuances and community spirit of Peter Cameron’s 2007 young adult novel to the screen. It’s an uphill battle for the production, facing much to manage in James’s cluttered world of parental figures, therapists, crushes, and a sibling in Gillian (Deborah Ann Woll), who’s dealing with the acceleration of her own maturity, engaging in an affair with her considerably older college professor. There’s also the character of Mr. Rogers (Stephen Lang), whose gambling addiction has ruined his marriage to Marjorie during their honeymoon, with intense guilt keeping the sad sack begging for reconciliation.

It’s a map of concern and woe Faenza, a filmmaking veteran, doesn’t navigate with certainty, often jumping from scene to scene without smooth transitions, rendering James’s existence with an unappetizing randomness. “Someday This Pain” frequently resembles a highlight reel of novel highlights, with the production desperate to include everything of value to please readers, yet a cinematic groove is never established. This erratic approach keeps emotional arcs unstable, while messing with the course of James’s homosexual curiosity, burning through a conflict with John (which begins with a gay chatroom prank) that seems to matter more to the character than the movie suggests. Another aside with James and his desire to own seaside real estate is hurriedly boxed up as a quick joke and pushed aside, perhaps only preserved in the picture to keep Aubrey Plaza (delivering pleasingly goofy work as an accident-prone agent) on the cast list.

“Someday This Pain” offers an overbearing soundtrack and its inclinations toward art world satire and serenity are tedious. However, the feature’s true problem boils down to an issue of sympathy for James. The production wants the viewer to care for the boy, asking for concern as James enters a troubling world of responsibility and direction, yet this crisis is no crisis at all, especially when the summation of the picture is that James simply doesn’t want to be an adult. With money, time, and educated interests, James wants to read books and live alone. The plot’s major reveal is how the teen prefers isolation, unable to deal with a world that would enjoy his participation. These aren’t particularly riveting worries and conflicts, perhaps not worthy a screen exploration, though credit should be paid to Regbo, who manages to find shades of contemplation to the role the script doesn’t supply.

Perhaps if one has a weakness for the confused lives of advantaged New Yorkers, “Someday This Pain Might Be Useful to You” might strike a warm chord of familiarity. Of course, the filmmakers don’t make it an easy sit with blurred characterizations and one too many endings, but anyone with a certain enviable patience might be able to embrace the superficiality of it all.

Starring: Lucy Liu, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Lang, Deborah Ann Woll, Marcia Gay Harden, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Roberto Faenza

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