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Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Kind of a Funny Story

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

** SPOILERS **

It's Kind of a Funny Story is a soft, warm, fuzzy, consciously quirky movie about clinical depression. Keir Gilchrist plays a bright, affluent teenage boy with a loving family who wants to kill himself, and thus checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward populated by quirky insane people with various degrees of mental illness. Though Gilchrist's fellow patients are schizophrenics and suicidals, none of them are a danger to themselves or others. To It's Kind of a Funny Story, they're all just a perfectly friendly collection of endearing oddballs. Even their doctor, Viola Davis, is perpetually bemused, just short of constantly chuckling like Dr. Hibbert on The Simpsons. Oh, aren't the mentally ill such a delight to be around? (Missing from the hospital is the poster from the first issue of The Tick when The Tick was trapped in an insane asylum: "Cheer Up! It's All In Your Mind!"). As Gilchrist spends five days in the psych ward, we learn through his conversations and interactions with others that he doesn't really have any real problems. Zach Galifinakis, who's basically the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the psych ward, susses this out pretty much from the get-go. Gilchrist has all the advantages in the world, plus he's talented in art, and, despite his random puking episodes, the ladies seem to like him, especially the hot girl his age conveniently in the psych ward with him, Emma Roberts. Roberts does well with what little she has to play; the movie is more interested in framing how pretty she is than delving into what issues got her locked up in the psych ward for 21 days (she's a cutter, but you know what? It's fine). Galifianakis digs the deepest with his character, finding nuance, complexity, and personal tragedy that the movie touches on but isn't too interested in dealing with either. Whatever genuine mental and emotional issues these people have are treated in a flighty, surface-y manner, because it's more important to jump to the next cheerful animated sequence or freewheeling jaunt around the hospital. Meanwhile, Gilchrist's main problem is he gets stressed out and depressed by his good life. When his successful best friend on the outside confesses that he also gets stressed out and depressed, Gilchrist is floored by this major revelation he never seemed to consider. In the end, Gilchrist gets out of the ward right on schedule, with a quirky montage providing all the relief the audience needs that he and his new girlfriend Roberts are gonna be just fine if they take it day by day. Perhaps while Gilchrist was still in the loony bin, his doctors could have looked into his fantasy of he and his fellow patients dressed up as members of Queen and David Bowie performing "Under Pressure" in a gay fantasia. Cuckoo. That'd be Frank Sinatra's diagnosis of these chickadees.

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