Saturday, October 16, 2010
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.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Deep End, based on the novel The Blank Wall, by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, is in the odd position of being well-cast, well-acted, well-directed, and kind of horribly written. Were it not so well-acted, in fact, it would turn almost immediately into a trite, soapy piece of trash. But Tilda Swinton’s in charge here, not the dialogue. She plays (please forgive me, but I cannot think of a better way to put this right now) a mama grizzly.
We meet Margaret Hall in a nightclub in mid-day, telling the owner, Darby (Josh Lucas, cute and creepy), to stay away from her son. The son in question (Jonathon Tucker, who should get better roles than he tends to, but this one’s good) has been spending some quality time with this club guy, when he should be concentrating on applying to colleges. So of course Darby comes to the house in the middle of the night. The house is next to a lake (Tahoe). Uh oh. But it’s not as simple as you think. Not nearly. Especially when a gorgeous blackmailer enters the picture (Goran Visnjic of ER fame). And especially when a mother makes assumptions about her family and goes to the ends of the earth to stop things from getting worse.
Questions are raised here: If you thought your child had killed someone, how far would you go to help them get away it? But what if you weren’t sure?
I wanted to love this movie. I’d been wanting to love it for 9 years. Somehow, this is when I got around to seeing it for the first time. I can’t say that I’m totally disappointed, since I’ll watch Tilda Swinton do just about anything, and she does not let me down here. But I wanted more.