DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Written by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Nev Vizzini (novel), 101 minutes, Rated PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
All movies have characters. Other movies have character. The dramedy “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” has the former. Filled to the brim with rounded, interesting people, “Funny Story” develops its impressive screenplay in a bland, roundabout way, which displays the mental instability of its cast, but never expresses it. Trapped in a quirky, sardonic shell, the film explains the characters’ problems, yet lacks any emotional catharsis or personality.
Unable to handle the pressures of teenage life and fearing that he might kill himself, Craig (Kei Gilchrist) checks into the hospital. For Craig, school is too much, girls are too much, and parents are too much--so he pleads with his doctor to do something fast. With no other options, Craig is committed into the adult psychiatric ward of the hospital for one week of observation and treatment.
There, he meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a depressed, middle-aged man who’s undergoing a similar experience to Craig -- he feels alone, scared and is suicidal. Bobby helps Craig along in his treatment, holding a figurative mirror to his problems. Craig’s interactions with people like Bobby teach him about depression and what it takes to overcome it.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” has moments of compassion and sensitivity. Zach Galifianakis puts away his typical, aloof persona for a role that is nurturing and complicated. He reveals himself to Craig in unexpected ways, keeping things decidedly subtle. Working from Boden and Fleck's screenplay, the actor avoids cheap jokes at the patients’ expense.
Bobby’s caring nature compliments Craig's growth. Craig undergoes significant changes throughout the film, and this evolution comes slowly but logically. Boden and Fleck fully realize the character, adding layers of complexity, but deny him emotional climax.
While the cast keeps things comfortable, the directing team embellishes frequently and never to the film’s benefit. Their forays into animation, hallucination and dream don’t fully express the emotional states of the characters and do a disservice to the more than capable cast. The film's experimental side interrupts any opportunity actors have of expressing complicated emotions.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” focuses almost entirely on Craig and spends most of that time telling us what he’s feeling. However, those emotions are rarely expressed in a visceral way. Instead, the film goes for a more artful approach that never hits home in the way that the directors hope.