Review – It’s Kind of a Funny Story

                        Rating = ★★★½

16 year old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is depressed. He’s considered suicide. Life seems to gotten the better of him. Everyone around him seems smarter, more focused, secure. His father’s constantly pressuring him to apply to some summer school that’ll look good on his college application, but he can’t seem to care. Craig worries so much that he checks himself into a mental hospital. With part of the hospital undergoing remodeling and maintenance, he’s checked into the adult ward while the doctors assess his mental condition. It’s there that Craig meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a fellow patient who helps him adapt to his new surroundings. He also befriends another patient- Noelle, a fellow teen (Emma Roberts).

 Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck directed and wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The screenplay is better than their direction. It’s not that the direction is awful; there just didn’t seem to be any. The movie seemed to direct itself, actually. Maybe that’s what they intended. Anyway, there were a few obvious directorial fingerprints – animated sequences, dream. They were directed well. Nothing origanl in that department.

 The script isn’t perfect, but it’s beyond good. I’d call it great, actually. It explores depression in a smart way. It doesn’t hit you over the head with an agenda or political message. What it does is take you along on a journey with some very interesting characters. We learn about depression as they learn about it. The plot line deals with some powerful themes. Many of us go through hard times and have to cope with difficult circumstances in our lives. Some of us can handle it and some of us can’t. Nobody really knows why, in the end. Why do some have mental break downs and others see the light at the end of the tunnel that guides them through and out of the darkness? The main message, in the end, is to just LIVE. Bob Dylan said it best – “He who is not busy being born is busy dying”. The voice-over narration is pitch perfect – delivered with impeccable tone and timing. Craig narrates throughout, adding just the right amount of perspective and depth.

 The development of the relationship between Craig and Bobby is what really hooks you into the film. They learn important things through and from one another. It’s a bit predictable and clichéd and we’ve seen this kind of “personal-journey-of-self-discovery-through-the-development-of-a-friendship-between-otherwise-mismatched-characters-thrown-into-some-captive-situation-together” thingy before, but it’s done so well in this instance, that it doesn’t bother us that it’s been done before. This is an example of how it should have been done all along – the gold standard to judge all future “personal-journey-of-self-discovery-through-the-development-of-a-friendship-between-otherwise-mismatched-characters-thrown-into-some-captive-situation-together” themed movies! Craig learns from Bobby that everyone has problems. Bobby gains insight into himself through his interactions with Craig. Cliché. Cliché. We don’t care, though, because this movie should have been the inventor of those clichés: When you’re young, you have the most to LIVE for. It’s never too late to make up for past mistakes.

This was like a comedy trying to be dark, but it came off as an uneven mix.

The relationship between Craig and Noelle has it’s sweet moments. It could have benifited from more work. Their time spent together moves the plot along in some important ways, but the heart and center of the story revolves around Craig and Bobby. Their scenes are so interesting, that when they’re not up on the screen together, you can easily catch yourself marking time in anticipation of their next “session.” The movie snaps and crackles with life through their dialog. Along with the script writing, an equal share of the credit for that has to be given to the acting performances.

 The acting is really good – there are some nuanced performances from all involved. This was a great ensemble cast. Every main and supporting actor exceeded the demands of their part. They each turned in surprisingly subtle performances with a range of understated expression that could have easily been overly dramatic and over the top, given the mental hospital setting, but instead was…well, was just about as perfect as you can get. Keir Gilchrist, whom who I had never heard of before, does a great job with the lead role of Craig. He sets the tone and, in a movie of subtle nuanced tone, if he didn’t pull it off, the movie stalls then and there. He did his job and did it very well. The movie soars. Gilchrist pulls you into Craig’s inner life and, although his character is anything but endearing at the onset of the story, you eventually find yourself caring deeply about him. Zach Galifianakis, known for his comedies (The Hangover, Due Date, Dinner for Schmucks.). takes a serious turn in this role – much like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. His comedy has always played to the darker side and that serves him well in this role, where it seems a natural part of his character’s personality and wry wit. Galifianakis performance is a stand out. Emma Roberts has been in a string of bad movies lately. I’m glad to see that’s come to an end. She doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but she does a fine job with her role when she does. Viola Davis (she has been playing doctor type roles lately, Trust and now this) gives a good supporting performance as well.

 What stops this movie reaching complete greatness is at times it can be a little bland. It never wows you completely. The narrative was uneven at times. Another issue I had with it was that the time spent in the mental hospital was made out to be like a vacation. There is a good deal to like about this movie though. Although it conveys a somber tone much of the time and it deals with a serious subject, just the right amount of humor was thrown into the mix that, in combination with the, at times, outstanding writing and great acting performances (excellent from Galifianakis) , made for one of the better films of 2010. This has been absent from top ten lists and I understand that. It falls just short of that, but it would be close to the next one.

 This one of the few coming of age movies that doesn’t crack a joke in every other scene. I liked that; a refreshing change. It’s Kind of a Funny Story how I found out about this movie. I was watching the trailer of the Hobbit on YouTube. When I was done, I was going to click on another trailer, but I accidentally clicked on the trailer for this movie – a happy accident. I saw it and I decided to check it out. It’s a surprisingly sweet movie that lures you in with its charm. The Stroy wasn’t polished that well. And the ideas and messages the movies had got through to you, but could have been told in another way. The ending also was just alright. With my priase and faults, you should still go see this.

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20 thoughts on “Review – It’s Kind of a Funny Story

  1. I remember seeing the trailer for this a couple years ago and it just didn’t appeal to me. Then it was released and kind of disappeared without a trace. Your praise is so positive that maybe I should reconsider watching it. Nice review.

  2. Anna Bowden and Ryan Fleck did a great movie called Half Nelson, which is the movie that convinced me Ryan Gosling was an ACTOR and not just a pretty boy. (Keep in mind I’ve still not seen The Believer.) Sugar was pretty good too. Very low key but kind of intense movies.

    • I haven’t seen any of those movies you mentioned. I will try to when I can. Ryan Gosling has really grown as an actor, especially last year when he did Drive.

  3. I enjoyed watching the movie but even while reading your review I had a hard time remembering the finer details. Also, for a movie with “funny” in the title I think I only laughed once or twice, but I guess that’s the whole point.

    • It is an enjoyable experience. I for one have only seen this once just a few days ago. So I can’t comment on it not being to memorable. Yes, this movie wasn’t that much of a funny story. Thanks for commenting.

  4. This movie actually touched me in a way, and it also had me laughing a hell of a lot more than I expected. Still, I think they sort of dropped the ball by the end when everything started getting all preachy, but it still entertained me and showed me that Zach can actually act. Now if only he had the right roles to show for it more. Good review Alec.

    • I get your point about the end. It was predictable and a little preachy. It bothered me a bit, but not that much. I know, Zach should take some more roles like this. Thanks.

  5. Hmmm I had never even heard of this film. Nice find Alec, going to have to check this out. I really dig most of what I have seen from Galifianakis.

    • It’s a small movie. As I said in my last paragraph, I found this by accident. The people who know about it found out through the book. Galifianakis is great in this. I love his comedy, but I wish he did more roles like this as well.

  6. I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, but I laughed out loud a lot. Despite making light of mental problems, it gives the audience some perspective; sometimes we are immersed in issues that we consider are bigger than anything and are more than we can handle, yet there are people with problems that are difficult to overcome.
    I enjoyed all the performances in this movie, but particularly Keir Gilchrist as Craig, Emma Roberts as Noelle, and Zach Galifianakis as Bobbie.

    • Same here, going in I didn’t know what to expect. But what I found was something that I wasn’t expecting in the least. Your point is spot on. The performances were top notch as well.

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