Mark Reviews Movies


2 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoë Kravitz, Jeremy Davies, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 10/8/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 7, 2010

The dream is the same every night. Craig (Keir Gilchrist) takes his bike out for a ride and ends up at the Brooklyn Bridge. He steps out on the crossbeams above traffic.

It's Kind of a Funny Story opens with his dream. His family calls out to him from where he stepped out and begin to grill him. What will happen to his bike? Has he thought about them? He usually wakes up when he starts falling, but this time, the dream is different. He knows this means something, and it's not good.

In the midst of the sometimes overbearingly quirky atmosphere of the psychiatric ward where Craig voluntarily admits himself are small truths about Craig's life suffering from depression. Try as hard as writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck might to draw humor out of his situation and the surroundings in which he finds himself, the movie has a sturdy backbone of compassion. It's an odd case in that it fails to achieve much resonance in its projected tone but occasionally stumbles upon a more apropos one.

The dream led to a realization, and he called a suicide hotline. They suggested a visit to the doctor, which leads to his voluntary committal. His mother (Lauren Graham) is happy he has finally recognized what she's been noticing, and his dad (Jim Gaffigan) is still quiet, busy at work, and certain that his son will continue down the track to success he's laid out once this little bump in the road is complete. There is part of the pressure, for he doesn't want to follow the path that his father has set for him.

He hardly understands why he's in an advanced preparatory school. He has an incomplete application form for a summer program that will be good for his future. His mind goes through acrobatics of rejection and failure to explain to himself why he hasn't filled it out. The scenario in his head has him end up exactly where he is now—feeling alone and depressed. So why even bother filling it out?

Craig meets two people who help him along the way. There's Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who has a similar outlook. He needs to interview for a spot at a group home, since his release is imminent. Bobby's reasoning is that it's certain to be a failure. Craig and Bobby become fast friends in their shared outlook, although Bobby cannot even admit that the woman hollering at him, calling him a disappointment to his daughter in front of the young girl, is his ex-wife. He knows it; he simply doesn't want to admit that she might have the perspective to be right.

His other new friend is Noelle (Emma Roberts), who is about his age and covered in scars on her arm and face. She doesn't say why she's there but doesn't exactly need to either.

The story (based on the book by Ned Vizzini) attempts to find a light-hearted touch with the idiosyncratic behavior of the ward's patients. One has supersensitive hearing after taking too many hallucinogens (with a Hasidic roller-skating gang to boot), and Craig's roommate refuses to leave the room. Bobby skates a thin line between comic relief and heartache, and Galifianakis is smart enough to play the latter.

The mix is fragile, and, as its title implies, It's Kind of a Funny Story aims for a light-hearted touch. Ironically then, the fact that it comes from a place of such pain is what saves it from becoming a complete misstep and only makes it too wishy-washy.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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