Film Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakis, Viola Davis, Zoe Kravitz
Directors: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
Universal Studios / Focus Features
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language

It’s very easy for movies set in mental institutions and psychiatric wards to play to clichés. Actors can simply go over-the-top to play insane and act crazy for crazy’s sake. After all, clichés are easy to perform and require little to no effort on the part of the performer. But for all the films that do it wrong, it’s always a pleasure to see it done right. Such an example is the new release It’s Kind of a Funny Story, the second outing from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. They and their actors bring charisma and humanity to their characters, with a mix of humor that doesn’t play on disabilities. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a smart, comedic little film that is sure to charm. The movie is now available on VUDU to own, or to rent in SD, HD, and HDX for 48-hours. It is also available 28-days before Netflix and Redbox.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story follows Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a teenager with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. He visits a hospital in the hopes of getting helped by a quick fix of medication, but instead ends up getting committed to the hospital’s psychiatric ward for a mandatory one-week stay. He tries to convince his doctor (Viola Davis) he doesn’t need to be there, and worries if he stays, he’ll miss school and his friends (Zoe Kravitz, Thomas Mann) will find out and ridicule him. However, he’s forced to stay, and soon he’s introduced to Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), Noelle (Emma Roberts), and several other patients. He strikes a friendship with Bobby and is attracted to Noelle. With the help of Bobby, Noelle, and the others, he begins to realize that his problems aren’t as bad as he thinks, and that by changing his outlook, he can lead a happy life.

It’s a lot to ask young actors to take on such heavy roles, especially when it comes to the subject of suicide. Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts give amazing performances that belie their ages. They seem mature beyond their ages for handling the subject matter, and at the same time, they never let the fact that they are only teenagers get away from them. They never attempt to act older than they are. They play teenagers facing problems that real teenagers face; it just happens to be that their issues are more commonly associated with adults. But in an era where societal pressures on teenagers are becoming more and more exposed, the problems they face seem less and less out of the ordinary. Keir and Emma bring great humanity and comedy to their subtle and commendable performances.

Of course, any movie featuring Zach Galifianakis these days can’t be discussed without mentioning Zach Galifianakis. The rising A-list star is always the consummate scene stealer, bringing with him his brand of awkward and sometimes outlandish humor. However, given his penchant for over-the-top characters, he brings a subtle and dignified performance to Bobby, a suicidal patient who only wants to be able to spend time with his daughter. This is the first film to truly showcase his dramatic talents while still allowing him to sneak in his comedic persona. In a way, his methods are reminiscent to that of Robin Williams, the famous comedian who can turn on a dime and deliver heartfelt and emotional dramatic performances. Zach Galifianakis is a true talent, and like Robin Williams, a rare combination of comedic and dramatic actor.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story was overlooked in its theatrical run, barely bringing in over six million dollars at the box office. It’s a shame, too, because this film is both thought provoking and entertaining. Fans of the indie films from Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and Richard Linklater are sure to appreciate It’s Kind of a Funny Story for its similar aesthetic, feel, and tones that resonate throughout the film. Don’t miss out on this coming-of-age comedy drama that is sure to leave you with a more positive attitude and viewpoint on life.

DID YOU KNOW?

It’s Kind of a Funny Story was in development at Paramount Pictures and MTV Films since 2006. However, when the project stalled, writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck brought the film to the attention of Focus Features. It’s one of the rare instances of a project moving from a major studio to the specialty division of another studio.