Wednesday, October 13, 2010

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

Written and Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Starring Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Lauren Graham and Zach Galifianakis

Craig: I want to kill myself.
Nurse: Fill this out.

I have to begin by saying that IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is not really a funny story at all. In fact, it isn’t even that funny. It tries to be, and on occasion it can be, but the reason it isn’t is pretty simple. It shouldn’t be. This is the story of a supposedly suicidal teenager who checks himself into a mental hospital for fear he won’t be able to hold on much longer. Last I checked clinical depression bordering on suicide wasn’t a laughing matter and mental wards were not warm and fuzzy places where teens could come of age.

When writing/directing team, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, first tackled depression and isolation, they gave us the harrowing indie drama, HALF NELSON, which earned Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a crack-addicted, high school teacher. It was bleak, honest and raw. Just a few short years later though, they have seemingly lost all integrity as artists and their ability to be truthful to their own story and directorial instincts. From the moment Craig (Keir Gilchrist) enters the adult mental ward (the adolescent ward was conveniently undergoing renovations to allow for more implausibility and hopeful hilarity), everything feels false. Despite the fact that Craig’s problems amounts to girl troubles and pressure from his Dad (Jim Gaffigan) to get into the right college, he is admitted for a week. It takes him about a day to realize that his problems are really nothing compared to his new neighbours, allowing for six more days of learning valuable life lessons from adorable and endearing mental patients. They’re crazy, but who isn’t really?

If Craig doesn’t really need to be there, I’m not sure why Boden and Fleck think that their audience will feel any need to be there either. The ensemble do their best to comply, including a surprisingly restrained performance from Zach Galifianakis and a refreshingly vibrant one from Lauren Graham, but ultimately, they look lost, unable to figure out why they’re there too. There is humour in pain and we can be found when we are amongst the most lost but by making light of the dark places these patients go, Boden and Fleck only come off as lost themselves.

3 comments:

He said, she said said...

Interesting review, quit different from ours. We thought that the film was quite a good portrayal of a mental health ward. And although endearing we thought the character of Bobby was cleverly written to appear 'just as crazy as all of us' but with a depth that was perhaps to miss.

Black Sheep said...

Hey .. Yeah, I couldn't disagree with you guys more here. It all felt so trite to me and sugarcoated by two directors who know how to keep it very real. I don't ordinarily have issue with selling out but that is usually because the artist brings their particular talents to a more accessible level. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck went full on accessible and left all their talent behind them.

Have you seen Half Nelson?

Graham Millar said...

agree with your review. I really struggled to get through this. thought it undermined the serious nature of teenage suicide, and I feel anyone with any first hand experience with this would find it highly insulting. it also felt unoriginal to the point where it ripped off other films. especially the final sequence voice over. just can't quite put my finger on it. anyway. not even fit for after school 13 something entertainment. blugh