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"It's Kind of a Funny Story" is based on the book of the same title in which Ned Vizzini tells of his experience checking himself into an adult psychiatric ward at the suggestion of a suicide hotline. The film by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is lighter than their previous two films, "Half Nelson" and "Sugar", which deal with drug addiction and an immigrant's experience. Still the issue of teenage suicide is a serious one, even though Vizzini's book, and Boden/Fleck's screenplay, treat it with many comedic moments. Keir Gilchist from "The United States of Tara" is nuanced and convincing in the lead role, and is backed up by a strong supporting cast led by Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts. If you can remember or relate to what it is to be a teenager under pressure from school, parents, friends, and life in general you will like this movie. It will make you laugh, cry, and be glad to be alive--isn't that what film is all about?
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is depressed. Although his parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) are nice, they are a mildly over-achieving duo who try to gently push their teenage son in a certain direction. This means going to a competitive high school and following a specific curriculum. But, even though Craig is quite intelligent, his stress level is very high and he dreams of "jumping off a bridge". One morning, before sunrise, he sneaks out of the house to contemplate his own suicide but ends up going to a hospital emergency room. The teen insists they admit him. They do. However, the adolescent ward is undergoing renovations and doesn't have room for Craig. Instead, he is placed in the adult psych ward, with a nearly catatonic roommate, Muqtada (Bernard White). In short order, Craig wants to go home but his new shrink, Dr. Eden (Viola Davis) says that is impossible, he must remain for five days. Fortunately, he soon makes friends with an affable patient named Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) and casts his eye on a lovely young female Noelle (Emma Roberts), who bears telltale scars on her wrists. These three strike up a friendship, with Bobby schooling Craig on how to "dress up like an employee" and leave the ward, at least temporarily! It is quickly evident, however, that Bobby has some dark secrets, as does Noelle, and Muqtada seems to be going nowhere fast. Can Craig get the help he needs, even as he helps others? This is a lovely film which highlights the topic of mental illness in a sensitive, intelligent way. Yes, there are patients with more severe troubles than others but all remain part of the human race, as shown here. The cast is great, with Gilchrist doing a fantastic job as the film's main character. Galifianakis, Roberts, Davis, and especially White, do great work too, as do all of the lesser actors. The setting is fairly limited, as most of the action takes place in the hospital, and the costumes are suitably drab, although Roberts looks very pretty in whatever she wears. Then, too, the script is comically insightful while the direction and camera work are quite nice. All in all, if you are hoping to watch a great film that touches the heart, with depth, view this one kind of soon.
The real treat about this movie is the performance from Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts. Both of them do a superb job, and left me wanting even more. The entire script is actually funny, and I mean funny as in you will be giggling the entire movie. This movie just makes you feel good, it makes you want to experience life even more. It has a great message, and keeps to the plot of the book a lot better then most adapted screenplays. Going back to the acting performance though, it really is something. While Zach Galifianakis usually plays the oddball in blockbuster comedies, he does a FANTASTIC job being a psych ward patient who is absolutely hilarious. Emma Roberts shocked me, to be honest. I've only seen her in Nancy Drew and a small glimpse in her Tween TV show "Unfabulous" in which her acting was borderline on being downright awful. In this movie, she completely breaks out of that role, and jumps into one that the people who aren't the ages of 10-13 and female will actually like! Several times during the movie i honestly didn't believe it was the same girl. She really does a great job. The bottom line is that this movie is great. It's not the best, but it is a movie worth seeing that has a very good story and great acting to complement it. See. This. Movie.
An important movie, and an original movie whose originality is not its
reason for being. That is, "It's Kind of a Funny Story" has emotional
chops. Musical chops as well, but that's another review.
Yes, the shadow of a memory of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" came to me while watching, but I have to say this echo did not lessen "Kind of a Funny Story" by comparison. It's not an angry movie. It's not a star vehicle. It's not a plot-fest. It is not ego-driven. It is not desperate for laughs, though I laughed hard on several occasions. In fact I'll see it again to remember those lines.
This movie gives you time with interesting people. Defenseless and ordinary, and beautiful people. Teens need to feel, we all need to feel compassion for ourselves and everyone around us pushed to depression. "Funny Story" while not grimly realistic is realistic in heart.
Zach Galifianakis has transcendent scenes. Keir Gilchrist is just lost enough. Much to admire in the film-making. This one should not sink under the radar.
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?
"See, that's the part I don't get, Craig. I mean, you're cool, you're
smart, you're talented. You have a family that loves you. You know what
I would do just to be you, for just a day?"
Despite the fact that most critics were underwhelmed with It's Kind of a Funny Story, I found myself liking the movie. It's sort of a feel-good flick, despite being set in a mental hospital. Imagine a lighthearted version Girl, Interrupted with more teen angst (in a good way).
The story's about a teenage boy who's burnt out on pressure from parents, school, and his peers, exhausted, and contemplating suicide. He checks himself into a mental health clinic hoping for some kind of a quick fix, but instead has to spend five days in the adult ward (the youth ward is temporarily closed). He meets the requisite cast of oddball patients (including Zach Galifianakis), he grows close to the requisite love interest triangle (Emma Roberts & Zoe Kravitz), and he learns the requisite lessons about himself and life.
So yeah, this isn't exactly a revolutionary movie. I enjoyed it, though. Keir Gilchrist is a likable young actor, and Galifianakis keeps thing from getting too serious with his quasi- mentor character. The young cast gives solid performances, as well (I've developed quite the massive crush on Zoe Kravitz, I hope she sticks around the movie biz for a long time to come).
All in all, not a bad movie to spend a couple of hours with. It leaves you in a positive mood, and the soundtrack is pretty rockin', too.
See It Now! Critical Perspective: B+ Personal Perspective: A
This is a film about second chances and in particular giving yourself a second chance. We all get very overwhelmed and stressed out because of our very busy and hectic lives, however, sometimes you just need to step back and give yourself a break from all of the drama in the world and focus on what is really important to you in your life. After a little thought all of the things that stress us out on a daily basis become very petty and unimportant and the things with true meaning and value in our lives shines through. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" is a film based off of the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini of the same name. The story follows a boy named Craig (Keir Gilchrist) on a five day self-discovery journey in a psychiatric hospital he checks himself into after dealing with depression in his stressful life. He is guided with the help of his doctor Eden Minerva (Viola Davis; Oscar Nomination for "Doubt") and fellow patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis; "The Hangover"). These two relationships along with a very special girl named Noelle (Emma Roberts) change Craig's life.
The Good: The film follows its genre as a dramatic comedy very well and isn't over sentimental or Hollywoodized at all. Instead it is everything you would want a film with the title "It's Kind of a Funny Story" to be. It really is kind of a funny story and a very good story with some very serious undertones. Overall, the acting in the film is very fulfilling and the variety of different character personas' of the patients mesh very well in a perfect comedic melody. However, Zach Galifianakis is the biggest name actor in the film and steals the spotlight whenever the camera is on him. He plays a character that is very hard to describe. He is both troubled and enlightened, dramatic and comedic, and optimistic and pessimistic. What ever he is, all of the other characters feed off of his energy and look up to him on screen. Galifianekis is joined by Keir Gilchrist (Craig) Lauren Grahm (Craig's Mother), Jim Gaffigan (Craig's Father), Emma Roberts (Noelle), Thomas Mann (Aaron) and Zoe Kravitz (Nia). The cast is supported by a very well written adapted screenplay by Anna Fleck and Anna Boden that will make you laugh and cry.
The Bad: The actress, Zoe Kravitz, does not do a very good job playing Nia, Craig's love interest from before he meets Noelle in the psychiatric hospital. She is a very annoying, stereotypical, stuck up girl that just isn't very believable. It is very hard to believe that Craig would actually like her especially because she is his best friend, Aaron's girlfriend. It is also hard to believe that Aaron is his best friend because he does not seem to treat Craig very good and does not act as a very good friend towards him. This makes both of these relationships to be very unimportant to the overall story.
Final Thought: We all could use a five day break from our lives so we can just enjoy the moment and relax without following a strict schedule that forces us to rush around. We all need contemplate the quotation that Craig's doctor Eden Minerva states at the beginning of the film, "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference." Go to the theater and See It Now, the film that avoids the typical clichés of the psychiatric hospital comedy and it may just inspire you too.
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are, in this reviewer's opinion, the best
writer / director team working in film today. Both Half Nelson and
Sugar (Which made my top 5 for 2008) were good and here they go more
mainstream and produce a simple yet vibrant low-fi comedy. If you go
expecting the Hangover, a full on comedy, then this might take some
adjusting to - it is more than that. It reminded us most of the same
vibe Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist had.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is an angsty teen and checks himself into a psych ward for 5 days. He is excellent, like a cross between Justin Long and Michael Cera and should get good work off the back of this. Here Craig meets the wizened Bobby (Zack Galifianakis), who has a complete emotional range here, his hangdog is perfect and watched closely you'll see every thought and facial gesture with real pleasure, and a teenage girl his age, Noelle (Emma Roberts). The supporting cast have groupworked this really well and it all just gels nicely. The film is a journey of self- discovery.
What lifts this is it doesn't have a mean bone in its body yet delivers beautifully - this film is firstly, optimistic about pessimism and abounds with humor, laughter, and originality, and secondly, Fleck again coxes the the actors to simply act, without excess.
It does a wonderful balancing act of making us see the world afresh too. In addition to all this it is totally refreshing to see a teen movie that is about teens and their world and not just another slapstick sex comedy.
I could only wish for 20 films a year like this, rather than the cookie cutter production values that govern Hollywood. The common trait in all three films are honesty, struggle, and eventually, something more. That's three in a row for Fleck / Boden - and I, for one, can't wait to see the fourth...
A depressed teen admits himself into a psych ward & meets some colorful
Complex issues switched up and told in a free-spirited way. There's nothing sugar-coated about these characters, which is probably why I like them so much. Pluses for having them relate to our current society; these characters could be someone on your own street.
With a narrative & creative style similar to 500 Days of Summer, this is an oddly inspirational tale.
Comic relief provided by the excellent Zack Galifianakis.
Great music, great film!
This is a slightly fun movie, but do not expect laughing your guts out. It's a almost a teenage romantic comedy placed in a different environment than the regular college movies. It has good characters and decent casting,and they will grow on you easily. Also, I appreciate such characters that are very enjoyable even if they don;t have more than 2-3 lines, such as Muqtada or Solomon. You may not remember this movie next year, but you might be hearing a friend sayin to you "get up, Muqtada" if you don;t want to get up from your bed :). This is a good 2010 movie, with a low budget,low commercial expectations but with great feedback. Despite dealing with depression issues, the atmosphere is positive and delivers a good feel at the end. Nice to see this kind of movies from time to time.
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