Saturday, October 16, 2010
It's Kind of a Funny Story
I cried. Kind of a lot, actually, even though it’s sort of a comedy, and it’s all right. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the co-directors and writers of this movie, really know their business. Though this is an extremely different movie in almost every way from their masterpiece, Half Nelson, it affected me deeply. Half Nelson, with Ryan Gosling’s outrageously major performance, wins over this one in terms of heft, but let me tell you that Zack Galifianakis is a delightful, depressing surprise in It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Bobby, Galifianakis’ character, is not technically the lead role here, but he’s the heart of it.
Set in a mental hospital in Brooklyn, the film is narrated by Craig (Keir Gilchrist, awkward and kind of wonderful), a 16-year-old who has checked himself in for what he thought would be a couple of hours, but turns out to be five days, because of state law. Whoops. He’ll explain his reasoning to you for that and other things, and he’ll do it in style, helped along by the stop-motion flashback editing, also done by Boden, a triple threat.
Suffice it to say, this is a new kind of coming-of-age tale, and one of the more realistic ones put to film. There is, of course, a love interest, two actually. Zoe Kravitz is the initial one, who’s unfortunately dating Craig’s best friend. Emma Roberts is the quirky second one who Craig meets in the hospital, and is prone to playing games, writing notes, and wearing weird outfits. But she’s a real person. No mind games, no pretending to be other than what she is, which I really appreciated, from her and all the other characters, in fact. There were times when I felt like I’d been punched in the gut by the reality of various situations shown here.
But Bobby is the soul of the movie. Who knew Galifianakis had this in him? We know him as the plump, bumbling fool from The Hangover, etc, but here he reduced me to tears more than once, playing the clown of the ward, but with a not-very-well-hidden sad side. His eyes speak volumes. Viola Davis, as the head psychiatrist, is, in my opinion, the best-written shrink I’ve seen in a while. And yes, I saw Good Will Hunting, but I wouldn’t want Robin Williams digging into my soul, ever. Give me Viola and her honeyed voice and twinkling eyes any day.
In my experience, I’ve found that new environments change us forever, in ways we cannot stop from happening. Can five days of intense therapy and soul-searching cure what ails you? No. But it can push you forward.