In recent weeks, Kieran Culkin has been racking up a number of accolades for his final season as Roman Roy in Succession, between his Golden Globes win and Emmys win. When one becomes famous and beloved for a role so great, it’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to transition out of that and be seen in a different light. However, after seeing Culkin’s next movie, A Real Pain, I couldn’t be more eager to witness the actor’s career following the hit HBO series.
A Real Pain just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this past week to a reception that was so warm, it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and was sold to Searchlight Pictures for $10 million (following a number of studios fighting for the rights), per Variety. It’s the second directorial effort of The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg after premiering his debut When You Finish Saving The World at 2022’s Sundance. Ahead of the independent film finding a place among the 2024 movie schedule with an upcoming theatrical release, I need to talk about Kieran Culkin’s amazing performance in the dramedy.
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The movie centers on two estranged cousins who go on a trip to various historical sites in Poland together in honor of their late Grandma Dory. Alongside Culkin, Jesse Eisenberg stars in the film he wrote as well. Eisenberg’s David is the more quiet, straight-laced of the two, who obsessively watches videos of his young child and misses home as soon as they land. Culkin’s Benji, on the other hand, is the kind of guy who confidently says it’s “pee-pee time” after belching loudly at a dinner table full of people (and he does exactly that at one point in the movie).
As the pair go on the trip together, it’s clear David is getting increasingly frustrated with Benji, between his lack of filter when speaking to the other people on the tour with them and other antics that take place as they visit places that hold significance to the Holocaust. Benji was not only much closer to their grandma than David is, but there’s also underlying resentment between the pair over the years. While there’s a real depth about A Real Pain throughout, it maintains a lighthearted spirit as well that makes its short 90-minute independent film fly right through its runtime.
While both Jesse Eisenberg and Kieran Culkin are excellent in the film, the genuine and wholly unique texture of Culkin’s performance especially is very much memorable. It was my favorite part of my viewing at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and I think we’re going to be talking about him as the year progresses and more people get to see it. Roman Roy may be history, but I have a feeling being part of the Succession cast has only opened up more doors for Culkin to continue killing it on the big screen. I can’t wait to be along the ride for this post-Succession era.