Friday, September 24, 2010

It's kind of not really a funny story

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”
One and one half stars

By Gary Buiso

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a breezy look at teen angst that does for mental illness what “Birth of a Nation” did for race relations.

The film, written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson”), is based on a young adult novel by Park Slope-native Ned Vizzini — so a heavy-handed treatment of the plot might not exactly be appropriate.

But the story transcends pandering: the feather-light touch the material receives is downright anachronistic in its understanding and depiction of mental illness, resulting in a weird, unintentionally funny backdrop to the main plot — a trite presentation of a self-absorbed teen.

Keir Gilchrist plays suicidal Craig Gilner, a solidly middle class chap stressed out by the usual troubles of a youth of his standing: applying to an elite summer school program, girl troubles, and spaced out parents (played by Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan). 

Instead of jumping off a bridge, he checks himself into a psych ward, where he meets wacky patients such as clinically depressed Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), and a seemingly comatose Egyptian roommate who refuses to get out of bed — until he is stirred by the power of music!

Of course, there’s love to be found between the bedpans, inspiration mixed in with the monoamine oxidase inhibitors. 

Craig falls head over heels for fellow-patient Noelle (Emma Roberts), who seems perfectly well-adjusted, save for the light scratch on her forearm and cheek.

Performances are solid across the board, if periodically saccharine and lacking any chemistry. The writer/directors are happy to cut gravitas out of the equation, and instead are content to leave the audience to founder in the happy world of the psych ward, where dreams really do come true. 

In that sense, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is laughable.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language. 101 minutes. With Zach Galifianakis, Keir Gilchrist, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Emma Roberts, Zoë Kravitz and Jeremy Davies.


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