I wasn’t sure what to expect going into It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Sure, it was from the makers of one of my favorite films at my very first London Film Festival ‘Sugar’, but it didn’t seem like something that was going to have an immediate impact on me. I would have been happy with a good film that kept me interested. Instead, I got quite the surprise and now it’s probably one of my dark horse candidates for favorite film at the festival.
The movie starts with 16 year old Craig, after having an incident where he tries to throw himself into the traffic on a bridge, heads to the hospital saying he feels he wants to commit suicide before finding himself assigned to the adult’s mental ward of the hospital for a five day programme to make sure he doesn’t commit suicide. Throughout that week, it goes through how he affects the people at the ward with him, his friends, his family and also Craig’s own progress to realizing things about his life he wasn’t aware of.
Zach Galifianakis, heading towards another probable hit re-playing his ‘Hangover’-esque role in ‘Due Date’, shines here playing the conflicted yet likable Bobby and it’s great to see him take a more toned down role. It takes time for him to develop but the pay off makes you appreciate the performance even more and defiantly something he should keep looking into in between making millions playing goofballs in Todd Phillips movies. Emma Roberts also uses this opportunity to develop her acting repertoire playing the self harming Noelle.
Whilst Sugar felt very much like a sports story told in an un-Hollywood, unconventional way, there is a very mainstream serious comedy feeling about the movie and that is one of its strongest points. The setting of the mental ward of the hospital has obvious set up for jokes based on people with certain conditions but these are never done with malice and it always has a purpose leading to the conclusion. Even with that, it’s never hammered into you and gives you a sense of openness about how Craig and the other characters are going to live their lives when the movie is over. In that degree, it is also very believable and much better than going for the typical ‘everything is fine’ ending these kinds of films can go on despite their reputation.
What could be seen as a drawback, though, is that it kind of falls to some of the clichés people didn’t like about the ‘indie’ genre of film making. There is the typical animated sequence, the weird group of dream sequences and some of the stories are explained in flashbacks in the same way other mainstream independent films were that people are irked by. At the same time, it feels as though this thing blends naturally I also wasn’t a particular fan of the small amounts of gross out humor. It wasn’t a huge factor to me and it even helped with the plot in a couple of ways and the character of Craig but it wasn’t something that suits my comedic tastes.
As their first mainstream movie, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have done something here that makes for great viewing with a genuine message behind it not forced down your throat. The performances are consistently good and the story flows to a conclusion that is obvious but self aware that it is so to make its message clear. It’s defiantly something that’ll surprise you which, funnily enough, was exactly what I said at the end of my Sugar review so at least Boden and Fleck are consistent there.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is being shown on the 19th, 20th and 21st of October, with the 19th screening being sold out. The others can be booked here. The film is released in the US October 8th across the top 50 US markets.