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

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


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

It's Kind of a Funny Story is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • The Nun

      The latest installment in The Conjuring series is the pumpkin spice latte of horror movies
    • Blue Citrus Hearts

      Indie Memphis celebrates 15 years of Morgan Jon Fox’s groundbreaking Blue Citrus Hearts
    • Crazy Rich Asians

      Director John Chu does rom com right

Blogs

News Blog

DMC Calls for Artists to Enhance Downtown Alleys

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

This Week At The Cinema: Rebels, Dinosaurs, and Gershwin

We Saw You

Cooper-Young Festival

News Blog

State Suspended Purple Haze's Liquor License

Hungry Memphis

Trader Joe's Tempest in a Tote Bag

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: F*ck

From My Seat

Star Power

Hungry Memphis

Saucy Chicken Opens Today

Tiger Blue

Tigers 59, Georgia State 22

Fly On The Wall Blog

Trader Joe's Opens West Nashville Location in Germantown

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…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • Lean On Pete

    • May 16, 2018
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

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