It’s Kind of a Funny Story (review)

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There’s nothing really wrong with Craig (Keir Gilchrist), except that he’s a teenager: He doesn’t fit in anywhere, he feels like he can’t quite measure up to his genius athlete best friend, he even longs for the beautiful girl that best friend is with. But he’s got it into his head that he’s so depressed that he’s in need of psychiatric assistance, so he checks himself into his friendly neighborhood nuthatch. I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of mental illness by being flip… it’s this oddly pitched little flick that does that in part, I fear. “I wanna kill myself,” Craig tells the triage nurse. “Fill this out,” she tells him boredly, handing him some paperwork. Okay: *snort.* But there’s no satire here: the film — by writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, based on the novel by Ned Vizzini [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] — steadfastly refuses to go anywhere near cultural criticism of how we now turn ordinary frustrations and disappointments into medical diagnoses, and lessens the significance of genuine psychiatric issues by turning Craig’s week in the hospital as some sort of adventurous lark, a rite of passage any young man might be happy to sail through. He even finds a girlfriend (Emma Roberts: Valentine’s Day) by the end! The hospital’s teen psych ward is undergoing renovations, so they put Craig in with the adults… which seems so wrongheaded and dangerous as to border on medical negligence. But it’s all part of the fun! It does mean, however, that we get to meet Zach Galifianakis’s depressive Bobby, who is weirdly charming — the character and the actor; it’s nice to see Galifianakis (Dinner for Schmucks) portraying a human being rather than a cartoon character. Still, the movie itself is much like Bobby… and Craig: sweet and good-natured but too mild and timid to have any real impact.

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