Usually the stamp of Focus Features before a film says a lot, you’re about to see something creative and original, something that will provoke some thought or conversation with your fellow movie goers as you walk to the car. Their newest release It’s Kind of a Funny Story is the first film to go against that grain.
I must admit that I was extremely excited to see this film. The thought of seeing Zach Galifianakis in a One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest situation sounded like gold. Throw in the fact that the talented Keir Gilchrist of United States of Tara would be in the lead and how could I not get excited? Acting aside, the story itself demands some attention, even despite it’s inaccuracies regrading the mental health system, or so I thought. The story centers around Craig, a teenage boy that has thoughts of suicide due to his lack of ambition to tell the girl of his dreams he likes her, the stress of being a part of the right school, and everything else that comes with the life of the American teenager. When Craig checks himself into the local mental health ward, he finds a new friend in Bobby (Galifianakis) one of his new adult ward mates. This mix of teenage patients and their older more mentally ill counter parts is the highlight of the film, and the part where you’ll have to stretch your imagination most.
The next part of the film is where it loses it’s “Focus” and that’s the love story. While the connection between Noelle and Craig is interesting and full of chemistry between Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts, there’s just not enough of a relationship between Noelle and the viewer to give the connection that weight the film demands. This also hurts the story as it untimely takes away from the most interesting part of the movie and that’s Craig’s personal journey of self actuation. This is better represented by Craig’s relationship with Bobby and if they would have stayed with this instead of having put so much weight on the love story they would have ended up with highly superior film. It was this decision to push the film into a different direction, one that could show some real teeth that makes makes It’s Kind of a Funny Story the mediocre film it is.
The saddest part of all this is the fact the performances are let down by the the film’s direction. Zach Galifianakis shows the audience what some of us have known for awhile in that he is more than just a funny fat guy with a beard and that he has true dramatic range. Zach is starting to remind me of another bearded funny man, Robin Williams; well at least a late 80’s to mid 90’s Williams. While It’s Kind of a Funny Story isn’t quite Good Will Hunting it shows that Zach has the ability to get there some day soon. While he is defintely the stand out of the film that’s not to say that there isn’t more talent in the acting arena. Keir Gilchrist shows that he can hold is own on the big screen. Gilchrist plays wonderfully off all the fantastic actors in the film. The fact that It’s Kind of a Funny Story has such a great group of talent is one of it’s down falls as it fails to use all of them to the height of their abilities. The best example of this would be in Jeremy Davies as Smitty. While Davies gave a fantastic performance, I was left wanting more from his character. It seems as though there was some kind of side story missing from his role that would have completely rounded out his character and brought more purpose to his story.
While this film is at times enjoyable and has it’s moments where you think it will get back on track, you ultimately feel forced to the end and are left wanting more. There are moments where the film embodies other films rather than being itself, the most recent comparison would have to be 500 Days of Summer in it’s visual style. While it was nice to have a look into the mind of Craig, by the time we get there it feels out of place. The bipolar episodes the film is suffering from could be due to it’s duel direction, it could also be due to the fact that they focused more on other films rather than their own.
I give It’s Kind of a Funny Story 2.5 anti-psychotics out of 5
By Ryan Davis