Movie ReviewIt's Kind of a Funny Story★★
Indie writers and directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (both from Half Nelson and Sugar) took on a difficult task in making It's Kind of a Funny Story, a comedic movie set in a psych ward with characters who want to kill themselves.
The story starts with clinically depressed Craig, played by Justin Long look-a-like Keir Gilchrist, checking into a mental hospital one morning after finding himself on the way to committing suicide. From there he is admitted into the adult psychiatric ward - the adolescent ward is undergoing renovation - for a minimum of five days.
Craig meets a few of the men from the ward: Humble (Matthew Maher), Johnny (Adrian Martinez) and Bobby (Zach Galifianakis). Craig forms a strong relationship with Bobby, a middle-aged man dealing with depression, a hateful ex and separation from his six-year-old daughter. Bobby becomes a mentor to Craig, teaching him how to deal with depression and showing him how much life has to offer someone like him.
Other characters in the ward, such as a schizophrenic man shouting obscenities and an Orthodox Jew recovering from a dosage of 100 hits of LSD, provide sub-par comedic relief. These inserted jokes force a smile the first time, but grow old quickly.
Craig doesn't interact with many other teens in the ward - only a few are even there. He starts to see Noelle, another suicidal teen played by Emma Roberts, and their relationship quickly blossoms into a teenage love connection.
The movie includes more awkward teen banter between Craig and Noelle than ever thought possible. The over-usage of "whatever," "so, like…" and uncomfortable pauses make Kristen Stewart's performances in Twilight seem poetic. Both Gilchrist and Roberts give mediocre performances, but their characters weren't written with much depth to begin with.
Fleck and Boden try too hard to make the movie "indie." Noelle mentions Kurt Cobain and the band Joy Division, the cinematography turns from picture into drawing and the soundtrack features three songs by Broken Social Scene. The movie forces itself into alignment with the stereotype for independent films, becoming unnatural and cliché in the process.
Advertisements boasted performances by Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan as Craig's parents. Their appearances, however, account for only a few short and run-of-the-mill scenes.
The one redeeming quality of the film is Galifianakis' portrayal of Bobby. Galifianakis gave a smart performance, showing that he can transcend the oafish, absurd roles of The Hangover and Dinner for Schmucks. Well into the middle of the film, Craig asks Bobby: "Why are you here?" His answer: "I've tried to kill myself six times."
Galifianakis is convincing and Bobby's story quickly became the only interesting portion of the movie - a story of constantly being on the losing side and knowing only hopelessness in life.
Even Bobby's story line, though, was not able to overcome the indie cliché. The filmmakers deserve credit for attempting a comedic movie in the most morose of settings, and Galifianakis should be recognized for a good performance, but the bad script and terrible acting are overwhelming and cause the whole film to suffer.