By Cassie Delaney
I am struggling to understand why novelist Ned Vizzini would title his 2006 novel “It’s Kind of A Funny Story,” as it blatantly exposes the book to an endless amount of parody from pretentious reviewers like myself. Much to my delight, screenwriters Anna Boland and Ryan Fleck have adhered to the original title for the recent film adaptation. Cue expected “It’s Kind of a Good Movie” type review.
In its essence, the plot more or less resembles the typical Catcher in the Rye type story of a depressed over achiever born and raised in the cut throat city of New York. 16 year old Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) lives with his workaholic father, emotionally unstable mother and child prodigy sister in an upper class Brooklyn suburb. The stresses of applying for a prestigious summer school, the heartbreak of being infatuated with his best friends girlfriend and the general depression of feeling misunderstood have all combined resulting in Craig’s suicidal tendencies. On the night he contemplates jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge, Craig rings the suicide hotline which leads him to the ER. He is subsequently admitted to the peculiar world of a local adult psych ward. As to be expected Craig meets an array of characters who both help and hinder him on his road to recovery.
Zach Galifianakis plays the despondent Bobby, a crest fallen middle aged father and the infinitely wise psych ward resident. He acts somewhat as an accidental father figure come wingman for Craig. Emma Roberts plays the beautifully disturbed Noelle who becomes the object of Craig’s affection. The trials and tribulations Craig faces during his stint in the psych ward are largely predictable. He must learn to appreciate what he has, he must choose between his fantasy girl and the new underdog, he must find his own path instead of pursuing the dreams set out by his father yada yada yada etc etc etc.
Craig learns to help himself by helping others and his life is turned around following a brief period of self pity. Bobby of course, is the catalyst for this turn around after advising him with the life-altering words “Those who are not busy being born, are busy dying”. Craigs recovery is infectious throughout the ward, and naturally, he affects the lives of the patients in ways that weeks worth of therapy and modern medicine couldn’t.
While there is no particular glaring issue with this film, the fact is that its just a regular coming of age story and it is, at points, quite dull. Casting Galifanakis as Bobby results in major disappointment as I expected him a performance equal in hilarity to that of Alan from The Hangover or Due Date’s Ethan Tremblay. I understand Galifanakis’ decision to pursue the part and attempt to break away from being type cast as the slightly disconnected sidekick. Unfortunately, I do not think that he has a achieved this is this role. What he has achieved, is another moderately funny character who delivers infrequent moderately funny one liners.
There are aspects to this film that are unsettling. From Craigs uncomfortable stress vomiting to Noelle’s scars, its not easy to watch in places. And, while things seem to end wonderfully for our protagonist Craig, there is still uncertainty to what fate awaits Bobby. Not all plot issues are resolved by the end of the film, but due to its general complacent nature, I didn’t specifically care.
This film is fine. It has a good soundtrack, a good cast and funny jokes. On average therefore, this film is just good and nothing more. It’s fine. I mean really, it’s an okay film. Perhaps it’s one of those stories that will fester in your subconscious for years to come causing you to gain an appreciation for the little things but I doubt this very much. The likelihood is that you will not remember this film in a year. I enjoyed it, without feeling any lasting affinity to Craig or the other unlikely heroes of this story. I laughed, without being able to remember any of the particular one liners.
All I decidedly know is that when I stand in extra vision in a few months with friends debating what movie is going to be the highlight of our Friday night and someone suggests ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ I will pause, think deeply and say, “Meh, yeah, I suppose it’s good. Kind of”.