Big Screen Peter: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Editor’s note: Peter Lewis has agreed to use whatever it is you call his writing style to provide some measure of analysis to those folks who still go to a theater to see a movie.
review by Peter Lewis
Special note from Peter: “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” was released in the 50 largest U.S. markets on Oct. 8. Assuming decent returns, the film’s release could be expanded to more markets in the coming weeks. Until then, you’ll have to travel north to the Malco Towne Cinema in Rogers to see it.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a new comedy with romantic leanings. The film stars Zach Galifianakis, Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts. Adapted from a novel by Ned Vizzini, the film was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the writing/directing duo behind Half Nelson and the sorely under appreciated gem, Sugar.
Yet, with all this obvious talent aligned for the creation of this indie flick, the stars don’t quite align. It’s cute without ever becoming endearing, deep without ever really developing true weight and amusing though never quite unilaterally humorous. It takes its appellation to heart: it’s just a “kind of” type of film.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a coming-of-age tale. Gilchrist plays Craig, a depressive 16 year old kid. With the (perceived) pressures of adolescence piling up around him and a tendency to stress vomit, Craig decides it’s time to check himself into the psych ward of a hospital around the corner. Faced with the reality of mental disease and the (comparatively) scary life in a psych ward, Craig tries to talk his way out, but must remain for at least five days — the state mandated minimum. And because of renovations, Craig is stuck on the adult floor.
While the filmmakers do an admirable job of (mostly) avoiding low-brow gags and a reductive style of comedy, the ward is most certainly filled with a nice allotment of interesting characters. It’s Galifianakis playing the schlubby and depressed Bobby that takes Craig under his wing and clues him in to life — in the ward and beyond.
Galifianakis has become a hot item in Hollywood. Following years as a cult comedian, Galifianakis broke out with his supporting turn in “The Hangover “(the coming release of “Due Date” with Robert Downey Jr. will mark Galifianakis’ fourth major movie release of 2010). The success and thus the subsequent roles have been crafted around Galifianakis’ unparalleled skill for embodying a persona that is as bizarrely hilarious as it is achingly uncomfortable at times. His turn as Bobby in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is no different.
While not the protagonist, Bobby is the true center of the film. He’s amiable, humorous, considerate and wise, but he’s residing in a mental hospital. It’s Bobby, not the psychiatrist, that becomes Craig’s confidant of sorts. Bobby is the giver of wisdom. His carefree attitude helps illuminate the essence of life for Craig. Yet, Bobby’s own problems are never truly addressed. We’re left to simply wonder what it is that has caused this man to arrive at this stage in his life.
And that slightly negative curiosity was the common thematic element of the film. Everything seemed to be left out or glossed over in the attempt to create a cute and hip little film package. But then again, maybe that’s the point: the important things in life are those that are right in front of you. It’s the people you meet and the things you do.
Though the film is stylistically bold, it’s hindered by the construction of the plot itself. Pulling off a film set in a psych ward is a tricky feat no matter who’s in front of or behind the camera. So despite some strong efforts, the film inhabits a nether world of emotion and comes off as a bit bland.
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