Movies targeted at teens these days often have the feel of being mere afterthoughts to the accompanying soundtrack, but It’s Kind of a Funny Story
embraces quiet in a way that is typically anathema to the young-adult market. Cannily recognizing how much noise
attends adolescence – that of parents hectoring, teachers haranguing, friends joshing and bullying, the hipped cell-phone beeping and blathering, and the siren gong of whatever’s making the Internet rounds that minute – filmmakers Boden and Fleck (Half Nelson
) take the opposite approach: with stillness. It’s a neat contrast to the voices kicking around the frazzled head of 15-year-old overachiever Craig (Gilchrist). Recognizing that he’s close to buckling under the demands of his age and his ambition, Craig checks himself into a mental ward at the film’s beginning – a not entirely thought-out brake-pull that results in a mandated five-day stay in the hospital. You probably already know where this is going – the lessons Craig will learn, the truths he will come to discover about himself and others. Certainly when we meet his antisocial roommate, the bed-bound Muqtada (White), the hardened moviegoer will nod, yes, it’s only a matter of time before Craig coaxes him out of his cocoon. And yet, there’s sweet surprise in how it happens. Boden and Fleck’s unabashedly warmhearted film is a sensitively wrought but also very funny portrait of the way we respond to pressure. (Cue the shouldn’t-work-but-it-does – and beautifully – sing along to “Under Pressure.”) There isn’t a tough bone in its body – nor, it seems, a Steadicam in the filmmakers’ arsenal, which ruins a bravura monologue by Craig’s fellow ward resident (played by Galifianakis, subverting his well-honed comic deadpan for subtly resonant dramatic effect). But these damaged patients have it tough enough already: Why not meet them with tenderness? It’s Kind of a Funny Story
manages to affirm the good things in life without ever whitewashing the bad.