It’s Kind of a Funny Story

6 Nov

Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Year: 2010
Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Writers: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, adapting from a novel by Ned Vizzini
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoë Kravitz, Aasif Mandvi, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Jeremy Davies
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language
Runtime: 101 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%


I really really liked It’s Kind of a Funny Story, I thought it was a very unique film, and I thought that, considering it was set in a psych ward, it could have gone down worn-down paths but it avoided each and every one of them, instead taking the film in a much more fresher direction, which was much appreciated by me. To be honest, though, I expected something a tiny bit better, because the directors are Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who back in 2006 directed Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson, a film that I personally adore, and it had Keir Gilchrist in a starring role, and that guy’s been knocking it out of the park week in and week out in United States of Tara, and it had Zach Galifianakis in the supporting role, and we all know how good he is.

So yes, I was a bit let down, but only because I expected so much from it, because the end result is still pretty damn sweet, and the movie feels really genuine, like we have now come to expect by now from this directing-writing duo of Ms. Boden and Mr. Fleck. The film does have some darker and more serious themes in it, it’s not all laughs and jokes, and I was surprised to see Mr. Galifianakis dialing it down. The guy is a comedic genius, we all saw him in The Hangover last year, and he’s been amazing in HBO’s Bored to Death and in Funny or Die’s series of Between Two Ferns videos, but in this film his role required him to dial it down a notch at times, and he does it wonderfully. Granted, a dialed down Zach Galifianakis is still louder than most people, but it suited him perfectly for the role, and made of It’s Kind of a Funny Story a tremendous vehicle for him to show off a wider range of talent.

This is a very good coming-of-age tale, one that’s very fun most of the time, but that behind all of that tackles some very serious subjects in the life of a teenager, and to have that teenage identity being examined in a psych ward brings new layers to this story, a story that deals with depression and self-esteem issues in a funnier tone than most similar films, but that does so just as, if not more effectively, than most. Again, the directorial duo is a big reason for this, you see their two films, the masterpiece that Half Nelson was and their 2008 effort, Sugar, and you know that they know how to handle their characters really well, and while this one isn’t nearly up to the level of Half Nelson, it certainly serves to reinforce that notion.

This is a different film in terms of tonality, but not in terms of how perfect it is in the depiction of the story it tells, it’s obviously far funnier than their previous efforts, but it still has this sense of bittersweetness to it, anchored to perfection by Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Galifianakis. I won’t stop praising the latter’s work in here, because I really think it completely showcased his genius in a new way, those of us who thought had seen everything this man had to offer were severely mistaken, it’s not that his performance is that different from his past ones, but it’s the fact that he can so effortlessly introduce these more serious aspects of his character into his performance without altering the effect it has on us was just amazing for me to witness.

The way this one’s written is also really nice, the jokes are funny, the pacing is perfect, it doesn’t once border on melodramatic and not once border on too-funny, it’s just a well-balanced film. This again, is credited to Ms. Boden and Mr. Fleck, I’ve read the novel which they adapted this from, and while the essence of it is still very much here, they have changed things here and there to make this one better, to further open up for us the mind of Mr. Gilchrist’s character, Craig. You may like the changes or you may not, I didn’t really mind them, but I thought that they served a good purpose for the message the filmmakers wanted to tell.

As for the story, here it is: Craig is contemplating suicide in Brooklyn. He is a very typical teenager, everything for him seems to suck, he feels like he’s not enough, every time he compares himself to a friend he feels like his friend gets everything and has it so easy compared to him, these are all typical teenage feelings which we have all, to one extent or another, felt. But instead of jumping off a bridge Craig goes to get some help at the psych ward in which he is evaluated for a few days.

And that’s where we are for most of the film, in the psych ward. And we get to live Craig’s stay with him, his interactions with Bobby, Mr. Galifianakis’ character, with whom he strikes up a friendship and shares nuggets of not-so-conventional wisdom. And we also get to meet Noelle, who’s played by Emma Roberts who, I thought, did a very fine job at it. She did a good job because she made Noelle instantly likable to us, without revealing much about her at all, and that worked fantastically for me. Plus we also get Viola Davis in a shorter role as the psychiatrist, and anyone who’s seen Doubt knows how much this woman can make out of little screen-time.

As I said, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is no Half Nelson 2.0, it’s a different sort of film, a lighter one, that offers a great message in the less corny and most genuine of ways, and I thought our directors conveyed everything they wanted to say really effectively, never once stepping into condescension. So I give this one my mark of approval, it could have surely been better, and as I said I was expecting it to, but I liked it nevertheless, it worked wonders for me. Not to mention that the score was done by Broken Social Scene, so it got an extra set of kudos for that.

Grade: B+


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