It's Kind of a Funny Story is the type of movie I find myself thinking about hours after the viewing and often into the next day - not necessarily because of the story, or the cast, or the movie itself. Rather, I find myself dwelling on the themes the film deals with and how they relate to real life, or at least my life. In this case it's stress, the pressure to succeed and where to find happiness. Those are challenges that everyone can relate to, at least at some point in our lives.
Set in Brooklyn, the film follows Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a stressed-out and depressed 16-year-old who thinks he wants to kill himself, but instead rides his bike straight to the emergency room at 5 a.m. on a Sunday where he asks for help, hoping it's going to be a quick fix so he can make it to school the next day. The doctors commit Craig to the hospital's adult psychiatric ward for a minimum of five days. There he meets his mentor Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) and the only other teen on the floor, Noelle (Emma Roberts).
When it comes down to the acting, Galifianakis stands out from the rest of the cast. We're used to seeing Galifianakis in comedic roles, such as Alan in The Hangover, but here we get a glimpse of his scope and the potential he has as a dramatic actor. Not to say that he isn't funny here; he is, seemingly without trying. With the help of Galifianakis, Bobby comes to life as the most dynamic character in the film, and the one for whom you have the most concern.
In some ways this film reminds me of another mental health flick, Girl Interrupted. In that 1999 movie, Lisa (Angelina Jolie) is by far the most intriguing character in the film. You could also draw comparisons between Craig and Susanna (Winona Ryder), but the two films are hardly similar in terms of depth; It's Kind of a Funny Story stays light and never dives too deep.
For most of the film, Craig is at the hospital. Yet the film cuts away to flashbacks and illusions from Craig's imagination. Though these help the viewer understand where Craig is coming from and are often interesting and creative, the transitions are weak. As a result, the film feels disjointed. At its best, though, the film never takes itself too seriously, as is evident when Craig imagines himself and the other patients glam-rocking Queen's "Under Pressure," which seems appropriate.
Some may feel Craig's transformation seems like it comes out of nowhere. But unlike Susanna in Girl, Craig doesn't suffer from borderline personality disorder, and he doesn't spend 18 months in a mental hospital. Craig is dealing with the same things the rest of us are: the pressure to get a good job, be successful, find "the one" and live up to our full potential. After a short break from the stress of his everyday life, Craig realizes what he actually wants and is able to step out of the shadows cast upon him by his family, friends and over-achieving schoolmates. The film itself may not flow as well as it could, but it's OK because we can easily relate to the characters and seeing their triumphs inspires us to find the happiness in our own lives.
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach
Galifianakis, Emma Roberts.
Written and Directed by Anna
Boden and Ryan Fleck.