Special to The Dagger
In the wake of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s suicide, the media has focused on the growing problem of childhood depression. Much of the discussion has keyed on reducing bullying, but at a subtler level the debate has touched on the more taboo subject of emotional and mental health. At the same time the issue has arisen comes “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” and its plot revolving around a young man dealing with his own mental demons.
Based off the novel by Ned Vizzini, the story features teen Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), who checks himself into a psychiatric ward due to his growing concern he will attempt to commit suicide. Despite his intentions of getting a quick fix of medication, he is forced into the mandatory five-day minimum stay. During this time he makes friends with the other patients, finds love, and mostly comes to peace with himself.
While the plot is as horrendously cliché as you can imagine from the synopsis, it does manage to find some nuggets of wisdom and inspiration while being quite entertaining. A stand-out performance is turned in by Zach Galifianakis, who proves he can do drama and comedy. His turn as fellow patient Bobby propels the film forward while breaking up the serious subject matter. Stylistic touches, while borrowing heavily from films such as “(500) Days of Summer” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” work well and give the film a less-than mainstream feel. A good choice, as the cast is mostly known for their less-than mainstream roles.
Most surprising was the subtle hints of depth in the writing. Bobby’s troubled relationships with his ex-wife and daughter, as well as his mental instability, were handled splendidly. Even Craig’s problems were addressed in a straight-forward manner that showed a likely teen audience they are not alone in facing the daunting task of society on the cusp of adulthood. Refreshing without being preachy, these moments allowed the cast to bring out the story and defined the movie more than the comedic one-liners. One wonders if there was more depth left on the cutting room floor, as the writer/directors are known for darker comedies.
Apropos to our current national climate, the film touches a nerve and opens the door to conversations via comedy, whether it is depression or treatment of the mentally ill. Perhaps a young person will take something more out of this and not share the fate of so many young people that have fallen victim to their own inner demons.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. The full-cast rock out scene to the song “Under Pressure” is well worth the price of admission.
TWO AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed and Written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 31 min