By Dirk Sonniksen | October 7, 2010
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writer(s): Anna Boden (screenplay), Ryan Fleck (screenplay), Ned Vizzini (novel)
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Zoe Kravitz, Dana DeVestern, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Jeremy Davies
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is feeling suicidal, and we get that pretty early on in It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Pondering the big jump, Craig heads to the hospital, where after a bit a badgering, Craig is admitted to the mental ward. He soon finds that being in “the loony bin” is not all it’s cracked up to be, but rash decisions often amount to tough consequences, and Craig is stuck for a week with a bunch of crazy people. But rather than wallow in self-pity (ok, he does do a bit of that) Craig finds a few friends, like Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) who takes Craig under his wing. Craig also falls for a suicidal girl (birds of a feather, eh?) named Noelle (Emma Roberts), and with that in place, Craig does some soul-searching that will hopefully carry him out of the mire and into the light once again.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story should have failed miserably, considering that it’s essentially a lot of the same thing audiences have seen time and time again. It’s one of those indie love stories with funky graphics and a great soundtrack (it really is a great soundtrack), only instead of the story playing out on the streets of New York, it’s played out in a mental hospital…in New York. That it took place in New York did actually annoy me (can’t we have films set in Minneapolis or Bangor? Oh right, Bangor is Stephen King country), but that’s just me being hypersensitive, and I digress.
This film pretty much worked for me, due in part to a well-written script. Boden and Fleck managed to pen a story that, while cliché at times, still possessed enough charm and laughs (thanks in great part to Zach Galifianakis) that I never felt like someone was trying to pull one over on me. The dialogue was natural (more so than a certain over-hyped film I recently reviewed), and it helped to ground the story and take away from a lot of the less appealing aspects of the film. Sure, there’s a lot of crap thrown in for the folks who expect it, but I connected with the characters…really. It is a love story, but the relationships are sparse enough to not suck the soul out of the film. It’s also about finding your way, and while I felt that the film was, at times, painting a rosy picture of depression, I still found enough honesty in the message to be moved by it.
Keir Gilchrist as Craig played a convincing kid who is depressed, now he’s not, now he is. I never really got what was going on with Craig, and perhaps that was just as well. One of the highlights of the film was his interaction with Emma Roberts, the two seeming very at ease with one other. As for laughs, Zach Galifianakis carried the funny flag at full staff. He was perfectly cast in the roll of Bobby, and he and Gilchrist made an admirable duo. For the most part, there were no bad performances here, and for some reason the cast that Boden and Fleck assembled made me feel like I was watching a John Hughes movie—weird.
My guess is that It’s Kind of a Funny Story will be lambasted by the elite glitterati as being superficial and silly. Indeed the film does leave itself open for criticism: it does present a sappy view of mental health as well as a syrupy love story. But with that aside, I found the film to be a fun little romp that left me with that mushy feeling I get every now and then. Simply put, I should have hated this film, but I didn’t. Perhaps after such an onslaught of dismal summer flicks, it was nice to find something that was not only engaging but also actually made me laugh.