Sunday, November 13, 2011

REVIEW: It's Kind of a Funny Story (2011)

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zach Gilafianakis

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie almost a year ago and thinking it looked good, so I was delighted to find that the film itself was about as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It’s Kind of a Funny Story, despite the cumbersome and indie-esque name, is a tight and well written film, and while it could have easily have fallen into the cracks of mediocre trashy modern rom-coms, it avoided the pitfalls by delivering a unique premise and some good, heartwarming scenarios that kept me interested. Of course, it also helped that I needed this kind of thing for my own catharsis…but this isn’t a blog about my personal feelings, it’s a blog about reviewing movies. Let’s dig in.

The main character is Craig (Keir Gilchrist), a 16 year old pressured on all sides who feels like he wants to kill himself. He checks himself into a mental hospital and makes friends with a troubled but caring older man named Bobby, played by Zack Gilafianakis. He also starts talking to a girl named Noelle (Emma Roberts), who is pretty much everything he could ask for in a girl – funny, open minded and a free thinker. There are other complications along the road, unfolding into the movie’s lotus-like web of problems, but the movie manages them all deftly, and I was never bored. I liked how well it managed every little subplot.

This is a good film by way of expert storytelling and the lighthearted bent it has to keep everything peppy and upbeat – although there are a few moments where things get dire, it’s never done too melodramatic or played like it’s less of a big deal than it is. Balance is the key word. Everything in this movie is balanced out to a nice, clever and level-headed crest that I rode pretty easily. There are funny parts, some romantic parts that come out pretty energetic and sensual actually and some serious and dramatic parts, all given their proper dues.

Acting is quite good, with Gilafianakis delivering a performance far greater than his goofy slapstick on The Hangover. He captivates in every scene, and goes from a deadpan, snarky monotone to a raging howl whenever he wants. I have a lot more respect for him after this. Emma Roberts is really good too, even though the script kind of sells her short with the fact that she doesn’t get many big scenes at all – but the ones she does get, she’s always fun to watch. And quite pretty. Gilchrist is a solid protagonist, and although he doesn’t really stand out, he does what needs to be done.

Mostly this is a film about getting help in tough situations and finding your place in the world. It’s aimed at a younger audience, sure, but it’s still relatable in general. The theme is a little generic – don’t buckle to the pressures of your parents and your peers and you’ll eventually get a hot chick and make friends with an amiable older comedian – but it’s air-tight, and delivered with conviction.

I will say the one flaw with this is that it was a bit short. What keeps It’s Kind of a Funny Story from becoming a real masterpiece is the fact that it doesn’t really do much outside of the conventions – it doesn’t go over and beyond our expectations like Whip It did, for instance. But it works with those conventions and creates a fun and likable film anyway, and remains far more engaging than tripe like Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Juno, if I have to point any fingers. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a good film, honest and full of heart, and if you’re not completely stone-hearted, you’d do well to check it out.