It's Kind of a Funny Story
Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck. Starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Bernard White. (2010, PG-13, 101 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 8, 2010
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, Sugar) 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.