It's Kind of a Funny Story
Mental hospitals have gotten a pretty dark ride in movies. Obviously,
the most important example is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,
however the facilities have also been vilified in everything from Girl
Interrupted to silly horrors like Gothika
and Shutter Island.
However, we've never seen the lighter, more romantic side of the places.
That is until now.
It's Kind of a Funny Story is, indeed, kind of a funny story about a
young man who is having suicidal thoughts and decides to go to a local
hospital to be checked up, not realizing that he will be committed for at
least a week for observation.
certainly doesn't sound like a light storyline, but It's Kind of a Funny
Story is based on the semi-autobiographical young adult book of the same
title by Ned Vizzini. Like its source material, the movie is not
trying to look at the dark side of mental health problems - though it does
acknowledge they are there - it just is trying to tell the story of a teen
boy looking for some direction in his life.
Through his inadvertent commitment, he actually is able to come to terms
with his problems and even find love and friendship.
movie is written and directed with a surprisingly light touch by writing and
directing partners Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden - whose previous movies Half
Nelson and Sugar were both acclaimed, but much darker than this
makers say that this movie is sort of their tribute to the films of John
Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) and it does capture that
kind of effortless juggling of the serious and the frivolous.
you know what? Just because mental illness and suicidal tendencies
are very serious subjects, that doesn't mean that we aren't allowed to
look at them in a more whimsical way.
Gilchrist, a first-time lead actor (he's previously best known for playing
the son in the Showtime series The United States of Tara) is
wonderfully unaffected as Craig, the smart and sweet teen who is slightly
overwhelmed by his specialty school, his driven father, an unrequited crush
and nightmares of climbing the catwalks of the Verrazano Bridge (the same
bridge, by the way, which was used in similar death-defying scenes over 30
years ago in Saturday Night Fever.)
Gilchrist is wonderfully natural in the role. A real teen, he is smart
and sweet and - as co-writer Anna Boden pointed out in our recent interview,
"He doesn’t have that obnoxious sense of irony that I see so often in teen
film and TV these days."
However, as good as Gilchrist is, the true revelation is comedian Zach
Galifianakis as Bobby - an aging patient who takes responsibility for the
kid and becomes a mentor towards his finding the way to mental health.
Galifianakis has always tended to be used on film as pure comic relief, and
while much of his performance is very funny, the actor also hits some
seriously subtle shading and powerful dramatic moments. In fact,
though his character is a supporting one, Galifianakis' presence lingers
over the film even when he is not on screen. Of all the good parts to
the film, he is the best.
Roberts is fine as well as a cute teen girl who is also committed - we don't
find out exactly why she is there, though she acknowledges that she
sometimes cuts herself and she does have a few angry scars on her face.
However, she is not really there so much to deconstruct her neuroses as she
is there as a sweet potential love interest and as a symbol of Craig's
finding his way towards sanity.
rest of the supporting cast is strong as well, with Viola Davis as an
understanding psychiatrist, Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan as Craig's
oddball parents and Zoë Kravitz (daughter of rocker Lenny Kravitz and and
former Cosby kid Lisa Bonet) as the best-friend's girl who had
It's Kind of a Funny Story make mental illness and hospitals seem to
be just a bit too much fun? Possibly. However, that is specific
to the story it is telling and the learning process which this young man
experiences seems natural, funny and smart.
everything that is about a serious subject has to be serious.
Like its title suggests, It's Kind of a Funny Story is a modest
little story which has an offbeat and personal and different
viewpoint on a subject which we think we know everything about.
to the point, it's a lot of fun.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: October 8, 2010.