Movie Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story Actually Kind of a Touching, Quirky Story

Though it has solid performances and a good mix of dark comedy and serious drama, Funny Story could have gone edgier

By Matt Stevens Oct 07, 2010 11:10 PMTags
Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, It’s Kind of a Funny StoryK.C. Bailey/Focus Features

Review in a Hurry: Feeling mental? Check out this Funny Story of a suicidal teenager (Keir Gilchrest) who checks himself into an adult psychiatric hospital. Aided by solid performances, this offbeat comedy lives up to its title, though it could have stepped a little farther out on the ledge.

The Bigger Picture: Based on Ned Vizzini's novel of the same name, Funny Story plays like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as interpreted by John Hughes—and with a depressive Ferris Bueller at its center.

But directors-screenwriters Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are running this asylum, where 16-year-old Craig Kilner (Gilchrist) is admitted after becoming overwhelmed by school, dating and other adolescent issues. Craig hopes for a quick fix, but is locked into a minimum five-day stay—and since the youth ward is under renovation, he's sent to stay with the adults.

One of the patients, moody wisecracker Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), takes the new kid under his (wounded) wing and becomes an unlikely mentor and friend. Also helping out is fetching teen and budding love interest Noelle (Emma Roberts), a recovering "cutter" who makes Craig forget his unrequited crush on a best bud's girl.

Boden and Fleck fill in plot bits and break up the sometimes-languid pace with Craig's voice-over/direct address to the camera, as well as animation and fantasy sequences. (The patients' glam-pop performance of "Under Pressure" is especially gratifying.) They use the devices to amusing effect and create a skewed sensibility without straining the quirkiness. Still, given the dark subject matter, the humor might've had a bigger bite if it had veered into a more daring, darker place.

Galifianakis develops a disarming rapport with the sweet, vulnerable (and thankfully not whiny) Gilchrest. The funny schlub—with his well-worn green sweater—slips comfortably into the role of wry observer but also shows surprising sensitivity and restraint in dramatic scenes.

Memorable in smaller roles are Viola Davis, oozing empathy as Craig's therapist; Daniel London as a "Hasidic acid-head" with ultrasensitive ears; and Bernard White as Craig's Egyptian roommate, who's too despondent to get outta bed.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The numerous shots of Craig stress-vomiting are, well, nauseating.