“It will come to Ya!”
New Comedy Looks Inward
The new film “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is funny, but not by the minute gags or pitfalls. It takes comedy inward as into one’s psyche and takes a look at what’s there.
The majority of the action takes place in an adult mental ward at a New York City hospital. Yes, much of the comedy is derived from mental illness situations, but with this movie, it’s not a bad idea.
The story centers on Craig, an average teenager who takes a series of events – and the ensuing emotional pressure – which leads him to a ‘break-down.’ Craig ends up in the adult ward because the juvenile ward is closed for renovations. This puts him in a more ‘adult’ situation and the lessons begin.
Craig, portrayed by Keir Gilchrist, isn’t severely mentally ill; he is in a depressive state as his world comes crashing into him one Saturday night. This puts him in the ward for five days whether he likes it or not.
One of the first people he meets is Bobby – played by Zach Galifianakis – who is dressed in a doctor’s outfit and begins confronting Craig about his problems. Later, Craig discovers that Zach is actually a patient in the ward as well.
Galifianakis is wonderful as the slightly off guy who has pure interests at heart. He struggles with depression as well. His character is in many scenes and acts as a mentor to Craig. When the two are on the screen, there is magic.
One of the best aspects of the movie is Craig’s perspective of things. The directors – Ann Boder and Ryan Fleck – elect to use the ‘Fourth Wall’ or have the character address the audience. In this way, Craig is able to show his fantasy of how things could be compared to what his reality has in store for him. This allows the moviegoer to see the conflict in Craig’s mind.
The highlight of the film has to be the cast’s rendition of Queen’s hit, “Under Pressure.” Watch for it!
And of course, there is always a girl.
Noelle, played by Emma Roberts, is a teenager in the ward for a more severe case of illness but she is lucid enough to know what’s right. She ends up being the stability that Craig needs, but it’s a rough road to get there. Roberts, Julia Robert’s niece, is very good in this movie. Her scenes with Keir are done very well. You feel you are watching two actual teenagers talk.
One of the major themes is mental illness versus anxiety or pressure. The psychological establishment has to delineate between the two with each new patient they see. Of course, there are varying degrees, so the baseline for MI is what the doctors are looking for. Mental illness is so difficult because it can change in people or affect them at different stages of life.
This film could leave it at that but it attempts to answer. Directors Boder and Fleck relate that one way to handle anxiety/pressure is to find a talent to help your brain cope with the emotions. It does work – not for everyone of course – but being open minded about possibilities is what mental illness professionals are hoping for in society as we learn more and more about how the brain works on an emotional level.
The moral of the ‘Funny’ story seems to be: Get out – of bed in some cases – and LIVE!
“Funny Story” is rated PG-13 and is 101 minutes long. It opened in early October and might still be at Dallas/Fort Worth theaters. The DVD will be coming out shortly!