Poor Craig. He’s depressed. He has suicidal dreams. His goes to the best school in New York City. And his friends love him. So what’s wrong?
He’s 16! It’s Kind of a Funny Story opens with an entertaining dream sequence where Craig (Keir Gilchrist) walks out onto a bridge, ready to end it all. Before Craig can jump, his parents (Parenthood’s Lauren Graham and comedian Jim Gaffigan) and his little sister appear on the bridge, trying to talk him down. Not only do they love him, but they paid a lot of money for his bicycle and if he kills himself, who will take care of it?
After Craig wakes up, he commits himself to the hospital mental ward (against doctors’ recommendations), where he quickly learns that there are people with much more serious problems. He reverses his decision and wants to go home. But Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis) lets him know, once you’re in, you’re in—for at least five days.
Luckily, the floor is filled with a cast of colorful characters. Craig befriends the cuddly Bobby (Zach Galifianakas of The Hangover) and falls for the lovely teen cutter Noelle. The motley crew may all be mentally ill, but really, none of them seem too sad, not even Craig’s roommate Muqtada, who never gets out of bed.
Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, Story is kind of funny and that’s kind of it. Everybody just follows straight lines from beginning to end. Nobody gets sicker. It’s like the anti Cuckoo’s Nest. In fact, writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who have previously teamed for critically acclaimed films Half Nelson and Sugar, don’t delve into much of anything. It’s more like mental institution summer camp, where there are super-fun activities and hot cutter chicks to date.
The tone is reminiscent of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a film about two teens with angst who spend all night getting to know each other and trying to find a secret rock show. That type of hipster vision works well for a couple of kids trying to get to a concert, but not a floor full of patients with mental problems.
Boden and Fleck switch between a straightforward shooting style in the hospital and a number of would-be-interesting-if-we-hadn’t-seen-them-in-other-films-so-many-times techniques as they explore what’s inside of Craig’s mind. Animation, grainy home movies, voice-over against stills—it’s really nothing that hasn’t been done better many times over.
If you are deeply craving a fun, bouncy movie about how awesome mental hospitals are, then Boden and Fleck have made the film for you. It’s well-acted and has a good soundtrack. Otherwise, if anything, wait for It’s Kind of a Funny Story to air on cable, if you kind of want to watch it at all.