It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a Pretty Apt Description
Bobby: Why are you here; in an ER, at 5:00 on a Sunday morning?A mildly entertaining comedy drama that functions like a John Hughes film set in a psychiatric ward. There are elements present that could have made this a much better movie, chief among them being the performance by Zach Galifianakis, but the overall tone of the film never quite pulls off being both effectively comedic and dramatic in the right fashion. More disheartening is that the lead actor's performance is incredibly bland, which really does the film no favors. It is unfortunate for a director team coming off two better films.
Craig: Lot going on in my brain right now.
Keir Gilchrist stars as Craig, a depressed teen who believes himself to be suicidal, so he checks into a mental clinic. He is depressed because he seems to think way too much about the world's problems and he is also incredibly stressed out by the pressure of his future. Once checked in, Craig must now spend at least five days inside. Among the quirky patients includes the hippest mentally ill cat of all, Bobby, played by Galifianakis, and Noelle, played by Emma Roberts, a teenage girl that may be as interested in Craig as he is in her. During Craig's stay inside, he has to come to terms with the issues bugging him, as well as possibly help out with some of the people he is now sharing a floor with.
Again, the problem I had with this movie is Craig. The portrayal of this character just has nothing going for it. There is no charisma about this person that made me want to continue following him or listen to his narration besides the movie forcing me to. There are many lines of dialogue that could have scored much better responses from someone who could have played the character in a better way, but as it stands, many scenes just fall flat.
On the contrary, Galifianakis puts in a great performance. I would hesitate to even call it a comedic performance. He has some funny moments throughout the film, but when he has to dig into reasons why he is where he is, or what's going on with his life, it is legitimately sad and well handled. I would not say that an entire film revolving around Bobby would be better, as he is in it just enough, but it’s a very good supporting performance.
The other problem with this film I had kind of plays off of what makes Bobby's character so strong - this is a sad film. While you get that the people living in this ward are saying and doing things that are sometimes funny, it is actually quite sad when you reflect on their situation. Because of that, things started to ring false whenever characters started do things that would lead to more comedic shtick.
Now with all this being said, I would still say I liked this movie more than I disliked it. Directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who previously made the fantastic film Half Nelson and the very good and interesting baseball drama, Sugar, have a style for them that gives their films a natural sort of look. While this is a much more conventional film than their previous ones, I still like their techniques used. I am also a fan of the soundtrack, which features a score by Broken Social Scene. Not to mention a pretty good supporting cast that includes Viola Davis as the head psychiatrist, and Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan as Craig's parents.
While not as greatly entertaining as it could have been, there are enough good elements for me to give this film a mild recommendation. It easily falls into some art house film traps, but it also has a number of good moments.
Craig: My life is messed up.
Bobby: No, my life is messed up. Muqtada's life is messed up. No offense babe.
Muqtada: Don't worry about it poppa.