Not So Much 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story has its charms but doesn’t earn its title.

film1.jpg

It's Kind of a Funny Story initially appears to be a teen version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a 16-year-old from an ostensibly stable, middle-class New York family, has been having suicidal dreams, and when his latest feels more real and persuasive than usual, he bikes to the emergency room. The attending physician wants to send him home to his parents, but Craig convinces him that he needs immediate help.

Craig gets a little more than he had in mind. With the adolescent wing of the hospital under construction, he gets admitted to the adult psych ward. When he tells a doctor the next morning that he's feeling better and is ready to go home, Craig learns that admission requires a minimum five-day stay.

Though Craig's depression is serious, his problems don't appear to be as severe as the more crippling mental illnesses he witnesses. But it's to the credit of filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck that they avoid the easy Cuckoo's Nest scenario: The doctors and nurses are not villainized (instead, the chief psychiatrist, played by Viola Davis, is portrayed as compassionate but grounded). Medication is not an evil to be rebelliously avoided. Craig's attempts to impact the lives of his fellow patients are not foiled. And however reluctant he is, Craig's time spent on the ward is not imprisonment but treatment.

Boden and Fleck previously collaborated on the unflashy, realistic indie dramas Half Nelson (with Ryan Gosling as a high school teacher with a drug problem) and Sugar (about a teenage Dominican baseball player negotiating the American minor leagues). It's Kind of a Funny Story is their attempt to branch out, not only with a more high-profile cast (including comedian of the moment Zach Galifianakis, television star Lauren Graham, and Emma "niece of Julia" Roberts) but with bursts of wild, broad humor and, more pointedly, a series of fantasy, dream, or daydream sequences breaking up their hospital-bound narrative.

This mixture of tones and visual styles is uneasy. The fantasy/dream flourishes often fall flat — particularly an unfortunate bit that reimagines the patients as a glam-rock band. Galifianakis and Roberts are best when staying closer to the their indie-realism roots, as with a fuzzy memory of cross-borough bike riding.

It's Kind of a Funny Story is generally at its best when it isn't (funny, that is), falling into the ostensibly mundane rhythms that marked the pair's previous films. There's the beginning of a really interesting romance here between Craig and mysterious fellow patient Noelle (Roberts), two teens who feel more real and engaging than most we ever see onscreen. But the film keeps Roberts (given underperforming material in Nancy Drew, the lone recognizable human in the otherwise dreadful Valentine's Day) on the sidelines too often. (And Graham is utterly wasted in a role that should have gone to a less recognizable actress.)

Boden and Fleck have created characters — Craig, Noelle, Galifianakis' damaged but self-aware Bobby — rich enough that you want to follow them past the end credits. But they didn't give them quite a good enough movie to inhabit.

Opening Friday, October 8th

Ridgeway Four

Favorite

Tags:

It's Kind of a Funny Story
Rated PG-13 · 101 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.itskindofafunnystorymovie.com
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Writer: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Producer: Ben Browning and Kevin Misher
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoë Kravitz, Aasif Mandvi, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel London and Adrian Martinez

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for It's Kind of a Funny Story

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Wonder Wheel

      Wondering about Woody Allen
    • Lady Bird

      Greta Gerwig directs Saoirse Ronan in the dazzling coming of age comedy
    • Justice League

      DC and Warner Brothers Pay $300 Million For Massive Public Humiliation

Blogs

Tiger Blue

Louisville 81, Tigers 72

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Beyond the Arc

THE GRIZZLIES WON A BASKETBALL GAME

News Blog

Public Picks Zoo Parking Lot Plan

Politics Beat Blog

Left Activists Intrude on Meeting of Shelby County Democrats

Politics Beat Blog

GOP Figure Bill Giannini Killed in Car Crash

Politics Beat Blog

Mackler Out of Senate Race, Yields to Bredesen

Beyond the Arc

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 6

News Blog

Cooper-Young Nears Historical Landmark Status

Intermission Impossible

Bad Santa: Tennessee Shakespeare turns Godot into a Holiday Hellscape

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A Bigger Splash

    Tilda Swinton and Ray Finnes deal with First World Problems
    • Jun 1, 2016
  • Logan Lucky

    Steven Soderbergh Roars Out Of Retirement With A Star Studded Heist Film
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Maggie’s Plan

    Comedy perfection from director Rebecca Miller
    • Jun 17, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation