It's Kind Of A Funny Story
Review by Jack Foley
RYAN Fleck and Anna Boden, the indie stalwarts behind the critically-acclaimed Half Nelson and Sugar, deliver their most mainstream offering yet with It’s Kind Of A Funny Story but crucially don’t compromise any of their values.
Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, the film follows the fortunes of suicidal 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself in to Argenon Hospital only to find the youth facility temporarily closed.
Instead, he’s faced with a five day stay in the adult psych ward – a prospect that initially terrifies him, but which soon brings bigger benefits than he could possibly hope for.
For Craig is immediately taken under the wing of Bobby (The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis), a fellow patient, who instills a renewed sense of confidence in him and which helps Craig tackle his feelings if anxiety about himself, his friends and family, teen pressure and, naturally, girls.
Boden and Fleck’s film could easily be written off as a feelgood film about mental illness that treats it’s subject matter with a relatively flip attitude. But while there are feelgood elements, the filmmakers’ never lose sight of the complex emotions at play, and refuse to deliver a completely neatly packaged ending.
As such, they remain true to their indie values while delivering the type of coming of age tale that most saccharine heavy mainstream offerings can only dream of. It’s like John Hughes meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
In doing so, the film also rewards viewers with some great performances. Gilchrist manages to avoid the potential pitfall of becoming a pretentious, self obsessed teen to emerge as both sensitive and likeable, while Galifianakis is excellent as the unstable Bobby, a shoulder to cry on and a sage-like presence who somehow can’t put his advice into play for his own life. An Oscar nod (for best supporting actor) could be a distinct possibility and is a perfect role for the actor to show more dramatic range post-Hangover success.
Worth noting, too, are Emma Roberts, as a fellow patient and cutter, who offers potential romance (it’s an obvious role but Roberts makes it sweet and affecting) and Viola Davis as a sympathetic counsellor.
Fans of John Hughes will also dig the way Fleck and Boden offset the more dramatic and indie stuff with some genuinely crowd-pleasing sequences, including an inspirational rendition of Queen’s Under Pressure that offers a headrush high.
Such moments sit comfortably alongside the flights of fancy and hand-drawn animated sequences that Fleck and Boden also throw in, as well as another hip soundtrack from Broken Social Scene to add extra indie edge.
Taken as a complete package then, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is kind of the coolest coming-of-age movie you’re likely to see in a while. For Fleck and Boden, the hot streak shows no sign of cooling just yet – and they may even find a wider audience!
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 6, 2011