starring Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, Alexandra Holden, Peter Gallagher
screenplay by Neena Beber, based on the novels Someone Like You and That Summer by Sarah Dessen
directed by Clare Kilner
by Walter Chaw Based on a pair of Sarah Dessen novels that apparently deal with the tribulations of a particularly sour adolescent girl, Clare Kilner's How to Deal is a disastrously twee Judy Blume knock-off that compacts every ill of growing up female into a hysterical parcel of over-reaching and hollow sanctimony. It's the kind of movie that has its maudlin protagonist reading Madame Bovary to parse, I guess, some portion of romantic martyrdom when the irony of the reference is that at the root of Emma Bovary's problems arguably lies her infatuation with mealy romance novels into which she might substitute herself for the heroines (not forgetting the role of Dessen's books in the first place). Irony and incompetence being the two rules of the day as Kilner and her cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards (once Gus Van Sant's DP, now relegated to stuff like this and Britney Spears's Crossroads) make unforgivable decisions in lighting and camera placement that cast How to Deal as an unintentional horror film with at least three scenes loaded with tension and free-floating anxiety for no good reason save that the filmmakers don't seem to know what the hell they're doing.