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Movie review: 'It's Kind of a Funny Story'

The cast of

The cast of "It's Kind of a Funny Story" Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

It’s Kind of A Funny Story
2.5 stars
Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” the third film from Brooklyn directing couple Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, stars Keir Gilchrist as Craig, a stressed-out, over-achieving teen who attends a prestigious magnet school in New York City. One early Sunday morning, Craig checks himself into a hospital after contemplating suicide. He insists his way into the psych ward, but once there, balks at the five-day minimum stay. He can only linger for a few hours, he tells them, because he has homework and school and an important summer school application. Request denied, he’s forced to adjust.

To no one’s surprise, Craig becomes the life of the psych ward. He befriends Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who teaches him to loosen up. He meets a girl, Noelle (Emma Roberts). He unleashes his inner rock star at group karaoke and connects with his artistic side during art therapy. Before you know it, Craig has achieved teenage nirvana, molting his uptight self and letting his true self shine.

Gilchrist and Roberts are refreshingly natural, and Galifianakis offers some of the movie’s most authentic moments. His comic delivery, incidentally, is barely discernible from his dramatic delivery, which makes him fascinating.

As well-meaning as “Funny Story” is, though, something feels offbase. The psych ward is populated with genuinely disturbed patients, but they’re reduced to quirky, warm and fuzzy actualizers in Craig’s journey to self-realization. Some of them even become his project.

As much as you want to take Craig’s depression seriously, it’s hard to tell just how seriously the film is taking it. At one point, Noelle asks Craig why he hasn’t inquired about the slit marks on her wrist. He says he figured she would tell him on her own time. She sees this as a noble response, but to us it seems like a sign of the film’s inability to address mental illness in a more significant manner.
 

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