It’s Kind Of A Funny Story deals with mental illness, depression and suicide. Unlikely candidates for a heartfelt comedy but surprisingly, that’s just what this film provides.
Swamped with pressure from school, high school student, Craig (Keir Gilchrist) contemplates suicide, but instead of going through with it, he manages to talk himself into getting some help. He’s admitted to an adult psychiatric ward where he’ll spend five days taking part in counselling sessions and group activities before he’s allowed to go home.
Here he meets a group of people unlike any he’s ever met. His roommate hasn’t left the room in weeks, his neighbour has ridiculously sensitive hearing and the woman opposite believes all phones are bugged. He then meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who’s also suffering from depression, and the two become unlikely friends. Add to this an attractive girl of his own age, Noelle (Emma Roberts), and it makes for quite a few interesting days in a psychiatric ward.
At first it’s hard to get round the initial story, a teenager who believes he’s so depressed he’s on the verge of suicide, yet he manages to bring himself to A&E to get himself help. The first few scenes give us an image of a very self-indulgent, spoilt boy, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be someone I could connect with. As the story progresses we learn more and it’s easier to understand where he’s coming from. Although the film starts off a little slow and rather offbeat, once it finds its rhythm and we have a sense of what the film’s about, it shows real heart and is really uplifting.
The cast are all perfectly chosen, as they work really well together, and a lot of the scenes flow easily because of this.
Keir Gilchrist doesn’t overplay a character who’s deeply troubled. He keeps it honest and real, which is where many ‘quirky’ comedies fail. His friends in the ward are all essential supporting actors that add depth to the film, but don’t throw off the central storyline.
Playing opposite Keir is Emma Roberts, who proves she’s someone to watch in the future. Her character is strange and sweet and she shows she has leading lady ability.
Zach Galifianakis is slowly breaking out of the standard comedy mould he’s been labelled with and shows he has a lot of depth. There’s a lot of comedy that he provides in this film, but more than that, real emotion, which is refreshing to see.
Creators, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, previously wrote and directed the hard-hitting Oscar nominated Half Nelson, and while there are some definite recognisable styles in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story to their previous work, it’s great to see them trying something more light-hearted, to show their range. Although this isn’t as bleak, it retains the core humanity elements that Half Nelson dealt with.
Making It’s Kind Of A Funny Story that little bit different, some scenes are spliced with artwork and animation that bring the previous scenes alive, and it breaks up the location too. As this film is primarily set in one place, the hospital, it’s a real achievement that it really feels like its set in New York. New York’s influence pops up through flashbacks, dream scenarios and a lovely end scene that overlooks the city. It’s beautifully done and gives this isolated world a real connection to something bigger.
On top of all this, it has an absolute killer soundtrack that includes Method Man, Broken Social Scene, Imelda May and The XX. The writers are definitely influenced by music, as there are many references to über cool artists like Bob Dylan, Pixies and Vampire Weekend, which pop up in dialogue. There’s also a fantastic cast rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure that shows genuine warmth and fun. If only Glee was like this, maybe I’d watch it.
It would be all too easy to dismiss this film initially as yet another, quirky, offbeat comedy, but this one truly has substance. Some may argue this is a serious subject that’s made too light hearted, but that seems to be the point. Boden and Fleck have not intended on making a Girl, Interrupted drama here, and it should be taken as it was intended by the filmmakers, caring and fun.
Along with the feature you also get a few extras including a selection of deleted scenes, outtakes, a documentary called A look inside ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ and a brief look at the premiere of the film in New York.
It’s Kind Of A Funny Story will be released on June 6th and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.