They imitate the witty dialogue and banter in Juno and mix it with the art-comes-alive approach of (500) Days of Summer.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a sincere, touching look at how people handle (or try to handle) the various obstacles we all have to face. The filmmakers have attempted to examine what separates people who reside inside mental health facilities from those who live in the outside world. Co-writers and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have crafted a decent film but one that crumbles under its own weight and grandiose ideals.
The narrator and star of the movie is Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a 16-year-old kid who checks himself into a psychiatric ward early one Sunday morning. Craig has been thinking about suicide—a lot. He is convinced that his depression has gotten worse and is having trouble handling all the stress in his life. Very quickly, Craig realizes that he made a mistake by checking in because he clearly doesn’t belong there, but now he is required to stay for a minimum of five days.
His tour guide and default friend is Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who has been at the hospital for some time and offers to show Craig the ropes. Craig also becomes interested in Noelle (Emma Roberts), another teenager who displays her depression a little more clearly than Craig. The hospital administrator, Dr. Eden Minerva (Viola Davis), works with Craig to begin to unravel why he feels so stressed and anxious, but most of his revelations come from his interactions with the other patients.
Funny Story is a very entertaining film and one has to imagine the book on which it is based, by author Ned Vizzini, is equally enjoyable. However, Boden and Fleck (best known for 2006’s Half Nelson) are unable to succinctly tell the story and instead get bogged down by the stylistic flourishes that are often distracting.
The filmmakers seem more focused on the hip, indie style of the film. They imitate the witty dialogue and banter in Juno and mix it with the art-comes-alive approach of (500) Days of Summer. The story isn’t allowed to unfold organically, which makes the progression feel forced and artificial. Boden and Fleck add an admittedly excellent soundtrack to the film, but even this serves to contrast how good the music is with the mediocrity of the film.
Gilchrist, who some will know from the Showtime series “The United States of Tara,” gives a decent performance but is outmatched by the other actors around him. Galifianakis is terrific as Bobby and shows yet another side to his talents as an actor. His performance is understated, yet you can’t take your eyes off him because of the piercing gaze he keeps throughout the film. Galifianakis is without a doubt becoming a very capable actor who has a lot more talent than most people will expect.
The film is enjoyable and very funny at times, but mostly it is a good reminder that everyone has crap they have to deal with, and that yours might not be as bad as you think. | Matthew F. Newlin