George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who has made it all the way to his senior year without ever having done a real day of work, is befriended by Sally, a popular but complicated girl who recognizes in him a kindred spirit.
Craig is a high-school junior, in the gifted program, infatuated with his best friend's girl. When he realizes he's suicidal, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital, thinking they'll do an observation, help him, and send him home in time for school the next day. Once in, however, he must stay for a week; the juvenile ward is being renovated, so he's in with adults as well as a few youths. Bobby, a man with a young daughter, shows him around; Craig notices Noelle, about his age. He tries to keep his friends from finding out where he is. Little things: he draws, goes to therapy, sings, helps Bobby rehearse an interview. Is this the stuff of insight? Written by
This is one of the most rewarding pictures I've seen in a long time. It's a breath of fresh air from the usual mainstream hokum, mixing black comedy and dry humor with genuine warmth and empathy. It's a movie you don't want to end, but when it does, you kinda want to give it a big hug.
There are no cheap laughs or lame gags here - the humor bubbles along like an undercurrent, echoing real life. Life is a constant source of amusement - we just have to recognize the fact and tap into it sometimes.
The storybook device, where the protagonist speaks directly to the audience, was perfectly weighted, cutting in at just the right moment to pace the movie and remind you of the pretext.
All the characters were well-rounded and authentic - I was particularly impressed that Craig's psychiatrist was played totally straight. The temptation to have her do or be something slightly crazy or contrived must have been great, but it was thankfully resisted. Likewise, the inmates of the psychiatric ward - there's a charming and utterly believable sense that everyone's a bit off kilter, rather than jokingly deranged.
The patients in the film aren't the butt of the joke - society and its proclivities are. That said, as a British viewer, I found it more difficult to appreciate how academia and peer pressure drive school-kids to anti-depressants and therapy - and for them to be impressed by the fact. I probably missed some of the main messages and in-jokes of the film, being from Yorkshire, rather than New York.
Nevertheless, I don't think you can fail to love this film. Zach Galifianakis is adorable, Emma Roberts is gorgeous and Keir Gilchrist manages to combine confusion and teenage erudition superbly.
If nothing else, you have to love the self-indulgent interludes, especially the 3D animation through Craig's fictional, line-drawn world and the wonderfully camp group performance of 'Under Pressure'. The soundtrack is spot on right to the last - who knew traditional Egyptian music could be the saving grace?
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