Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Dana DeVestern, Lauren Graham and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover 2)
Sometimes movies have the perfect setup to be the next great American icon that will leave audiences talking about them for years to come. ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ seemed like it would be one of those movies, as it stars such famous actors as Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis and Lauren Graham. Plus, it’s based on the 2006 novel of the same name, which itself was inspired by author Ned Vizzini’s own experiences after hospitalized for depression in late 2004.
Unfortunately, the film adaptation, which was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, failed to live up to the hype surrounding it after premiering at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. The movie follows 16-year-old Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) after he checks himself into a psychiatric hospital following a bout of depression. Craig is placed in the adult ward for five days, where he is guided and protected by Bobby (portrayed by Galifianakis), who himself is struggling with being institutionalized on his daughter’s eighth birthday.
Craig also finds himself attracted to Noelle (played by Roberts), another 16-year-old who is in the adult ward. Not only does Noelle help Craig get through his stay at the hospital, but so does Dr. Minerva (portrayed by Davis), the adult ward’s staff psychiatrist. She coaxes him to discuss his school work and friends at Executive Pre-Professional High School, as well as his family, in an effort to understand why he’s been depressed.
Focus Features, the studio that released the movie, seemed to make the right choice at first by hiring Gilchrist, a relative unkown to most movie audiences, but who previously rose to fame on Showtime’s ‘United States of Tara.’ The role of Craig needed to be portrayed by an actor with whom most people don’t know much about, so they would more easily believe he has had real teen experiences and understand what it’s like to be depressed. Since teens are often faced with dealing with stress related to school, family and friends, it also seemed safe to assume that Gilchrist would be able to portray that, since he didn’t grow up being a big child movie star.
However, Gilchrist didn’t seem to really care about being in character, and instead just enjoyed being on screen, having fun. While ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ is a comedy-drama, it’s supposed to have both comedic and dramatic elements to it, but Gilchrist didn’t bring anything dramatic to the role.
Casting Galifianakis as the fun-loving Bobby also seemed like a wise decision at first, since he has garnered attention for his similarly-themed comedic performances in such movies as ‘The Hangover,’ ‘Youth in Revolt’ and ‘Dinner for Schmucks.’ Having perfected the funny character with underlying issues in these roles, Galifianakis did bring some laughs and cut the tension in several scenes in ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story.’ However, he didn’t bring as much charm and charisma to the role of Bobby as he has to his other roles, and audiences will certainly be left wondering where his continuous comedic relief is in this movie.
Since the topic of patients’ lives in psychiatric hospitals has been covered multiple times in movies before, ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ needed to bring something new to the subject to draw attention to itself. However, even casting fan favorite Galifianakis and relative newcomer Gilchrist to the two main roles in an attempt to add comedic relief and character believability didn’t compensate for the script’s lack of originality.
Written by: Karen Benardello