Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer
If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer
|Featuring:||Zach Galifianakis (Bobby)—“The Hangover”, Emma Roberts (Noelle), Lauren Graham (Lynn)—“Parenthood”, Viola Davis (Dr. Minerva), Keir Gilchrist (Craig)—“United States of Tara”, more »|
|Director:||Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden|
|Producer:||Focus Features, Wayfare Entertainment, more »|
“Sometimes what’s in your head isn’t as crazy as you think.”
It seems as though movies set in mental institutions can go one of two ways. They can either be “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, or they can be any other inferior work in the genre since that 1975 Jack Nicholson classic. The reason they are inferior is because they rely too much on clichés of those institutions, as well as an unrealistic portrayal of individuals with mental illness. This is the case because actual mental illness is a far more normal malady than people would like to admit. People of all ages and all walks of life live with mental illnesses like depression. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” educates us on these types of mental illnesses, and does so in a sometimes funny, sometimes heartfelt manner.
Craig is a very smart high school student who attends a school in New York City for the best and brightest. His father is a very successful man who is always working, unless he is reminding Craig of upcoming applications for internships or universities. Craig feels an innate pressure to succeed in all that he does, and his fear of failure is not helped by his father or his high pressure educational environment. As his fears pile up, Craig feels the need to go to a hospital and tell them he is having suicidal thoughts. While he really just wants some medicine or a quick fix, he instead gets institutionalized for a minimum of one week. During this time, Craig meets a girl his age named Noelle, as well as a man named Bobby who seems to be going through some issues of his own. These relationships in the institution help Craig face his fear of failure, begin to care about others and realize what is important in life.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” was made by the writing and directing team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. Together they have made two previous films that were critical darlings on the independent film circuit. Those two films, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar”, were much more solemn affairs and presented very deep, dark questions to the audience. Thankfully, Boden and Fleck have kept their thinking caps on while also delivering a picture with some hope, wit, and heart.
The film is expertly delivered on screen and on paper, combining a little bit of comedy and sadness to leave us with something in the middle, which somehow makes a movie set in a mental institution very relatable to the viewer. It marches to its own beat, and some who were not as enthralled as me might find it moves a bit slowly for their taste.
The acting is outstanding. The lead, Craig, is played by Keir Gilchrist, who brings a natural sensibility to the role of a teenager thinking about suicide. The scene stealer in the film, however, is Zach Galifianakis. The comedian is best known for his roles in raunchy comedies like “The Hangover” and “Dinner for Schmucks”. Galifinakis plays Bobby, and his performance is perfectly layered and packs an emotional punch. Emma Roberts plays Craig’s love interest Noelle, a teenage girl with some of the same problems that Craig has.
The content issues of the film fall squarely into its PG-13 rating, but I would still say this is a movie geared more towards adults. Given that the central character is a teenager who is trying to fit in, there is some sexual dialogue, as well as one brief sexual situation. There is no nudity, but there are a couple of close ups on clothed body parts that could have been avoided. There is one F-word, along with a handful of other profanities, but given that most films set in a mental institution have at least one patient who uses nonstop profanity, this one is way ahead of the curve. There is misuse of God’s name—God (2), “Oh my G*d” (4), “Jesus Christ” (1) and “Swear to God.”
The film, also, deals with the issue of suicide, and there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but it may caution parents before sending any teens who may be interested in seeing the film. I imagine that some older teens will connect with the main character, if they are going through a similar situation, but most teens will probably find the film boring and not nearly as funny as they had hoped.
There are a lot of positives in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”. The film portrays natural teenage angst and the progression teens go through in dealing with unneeded stress in their lives. Craig realizes that he can handle his problems, and he should be thankful for his loved ones. Craig, also, comes to the conclusion that he has been selfish, and then proceeds to change this by committing several selfless acts that have a very big impact on some of the other patients.
Craig’s therapist offers positive advice, including an emphasis on this phrase: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” There is also a very sincere love story at the center of the movie, and its portrayal is spot on. Most importantly, the film emphasizes the point that we are not perfect, and we are in need of love.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a sweet film that steers clear of most of the clichés found in movies that take place in mental hospitals. It showcases a more realistic portrayal of mental illness, and it also paints a great picture of how stress can mount quickly. For those who like to go to the movies for escapist fare, this film might not be for you. In fact, the best thing to be said about “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is that it imitates what life is: a journey with a few hiccups along the way that is sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately redemptive. What more can you ask for?
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.