Rated PG-13 for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language, 95 minutes
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" a lighter look at mental illness
If you've ever personally struggled with depression or another mental illness, you may not take kindly to people making fun of you. The smart new dramedy "It's Kind of a Funny Story" takes a more wistful, unsentimental approach to dealing with mental illness. It doesn't exactly make fun of mental illness, and while it's hardly a serious look at the subject it's a serviceable effort. Warm, offbeat but low-key, it's peppered with a handful of entertaining interludes: a lighter, cleaner more fun version of "One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest" for teens.
Based on the 2006 Ned Vizzini novel of the same name, "It's Kind of a Funny Story" deals with Craig ("United States of Tara's" Keir Gilchrist), a clinically depressed New York City teen having a bad weekend. He checks himself into the local psych clinic but quickly feels he's better after seeing some of the unsteady patients there, including the wacky Bobby ("The Hangover's" Zach Galifianakis) and another teen with problems, Noelle (Emma Roberts). However, the clinic's doctor (Viola Davis) requires Craig to stay at least 5 days for evaluation. His short stay at the clinic helps him learn more about himself, his illness and the impact on those around him.
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" is a relaxed, unassuming unconventional comedy with heart and a great cast. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the team behind "Half Nelson" and "Sugar," the film isn't a serious look at the subject; it too often treads water and skips around its serious subject matter, providing some too easy pop-psychological answers for Craig's problems.
As slight as the subject matter is handled, it's enjoyable and well-acted, especially by the fresh-faced Gilchrest, who anchors the film well in an affecting turn; his best moments: pretending to be David Bowie and his ability to throw up at the worst moments. His interchanges with Galifianakis (in a mostly restrained performance) provide the film's best moments. The rest of the cast performs well too. Jim Gaffigan and Lauren Graham appear briefly as Craig's befuddled parents; Oscar-nominee Davis his warm doctor, Roberts his love interest and the lovely Zoe Kravitz (Lenny's daughter) as his female obsession.
"It's Kind of a Funny" story doesn't pretend to have all the answers, "Sybil" or "The Three Faces of Eve" it isn't (though it does have some cool, nifty drawings, or "brain maps" as they're called). People struggle with depression, everyone handles it differently, and it's OK to laugh at yourself occasionally. As the old saying goes, you must laugh to keep from crying, and "It's Kind of a Funny Story" does that well.