…But mainly, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a deeply serious presentation of what real companionship is—and what it can be—in the lives of any certain group of people. By presenting the story of an overstressed and thus depressed teenager (a role nailed by Keir Gilchrist in his feature film debut) who voluntarily commits himself to a psychiatric hospital, this story takes what could be a stereotypically contrived situation and instead produces a warm and telling fable about the building-up effects of simple but of so influential friendship.
When Craig (Gilchrist) can no longer take all of the pressure of his friendships, school demands, and parents’ expectations, he begins to become suicidal. Instead of jumping off of the Brooklyn Bridge, our young hero decides to walk down the street from his house and check out the aforementioned facility; after begging his way in (on half-hearted emotions at that), Craig is uncomfortably surprised to find out that he must spend at least one week under observation. And so the day-by-day progression of this particular mental ward—one where everyone is free to do pretty much whatever they want, it seems—is showcased. Craig is quickly befriended by fellow patients Bobby (Zach Galfianakis), again here demonstrating the incredible range of his acting abilities), a middle aged frequent flyer of the hospital, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), a teenage girl whose self-mutilation practices have earned her a compulsory stay. The other residents as well play important, if not understated, roles—whether it be Craig’s neurotic Egyptian roommate, or the ward staffer Smitty, who just might be crazier than any of the patients.
What really makes this an enjoyable movie—alongside of the coming-of-age tale that is at the center of all of the goings on—is the at times playful banter, at times heartfelt comradery, and at even other times just plain insane interactions between all of these characters who are, for lack of a better term, a family… both because of and in spite of their current circumstances. The almost news reporter-esque narration by Craig is well-matched with several cut sequences that are either flashbacks or fantasies, and the nearly soundtrack-less (aside from a memorable “Under Pressure”—a la Queen and David Bowie—re-interpretation by the collective ward) plot progression evokes a certain dire undertone that, despite all of the true joy we as an audience can see being exchanged by the group, reminds us that we are in fact watching a movie about mentally-ill people whose lives are, for whatever reason, in long-term shambles.
While a bit slow moving at times, Funny Story is nonetheless an excellent and even relevant message to anyone out there who, at one time or another, just can’t take the grind anymore. Especially in the case of Craig’s character—and all of the modern adolescents who feel his pain—this parable’s importance can’t be understated: our kids need to know above all that they are loved no matter what, and also that regardless of the incessant demands that we and the rest of society place upon them, everything is going to be ok.
Reviewer’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars