Movie Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story
By Matthew Huntley
October 19, 2010
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a film that speaks from the hearts of its filmmakers. It was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and even though they adapted the screenplay from the novel by Ned Vizzini, it’s obvious they brought their own stories and experiences to the table. The film feels close to home and relays some of the universal truths about adolescents, namely the intense pressure they face from their parents, peers and the changing world - now more than ever. And in such a world, it’s unfortunate that some teenagers find suicide to be the most logical answer to solving life’s problems. It’s Kind of a Funny Story hopes to provide others.
But while the film’s heart is in the right place, its execution is not. As a film, it’s lackadaisical and presents its subject matter more or less through conventional means. It lacks the power to be inspired or truly profound, and even though it means well and has a sincere message that’s clear and important, we’ve heard it before.
The story centers on a 16-year-old named Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who tells us, “It all starts with a bridge,” referring to the bridge in his dream that he sometimes thinks about jumping off. That is, until he’s interrupted by his mom (Lauren Graham), dad (Jim Gaffigan) and little sister (Dana DeVestern), who tell him he shouldn’t be so selfish and ask, “Why don’t you think about others before taking your own life? What about us? And what are we going to with your bike?”
That pretty much sums up Craig’s problem: he’s too busy living for others when he should be living for himself. He recently stopped taking anti-depressants because he decided he didn’t need them anymore, but now he’s feeling suicidal and anxious about a summer school he fears he might not get into. And if he doesn’t get into summer school, he won’t be able to put it on his college resume; and if he can’t put it on his resume, he won’t get into a good college; and if he doesn’t get into a good college, he won’t get a good job; and if he doesn’t get a good job, he won’t have a good lifestyle; and if… The movie is all too accurate about how everyone, especially teenagers, believes that one experience will make or break their lives, as if everything boils down to one moment, to one thing. On the subject of pressure, the film knows what it’s talking about and there’s a scene where Craig imagines what might happen if he blows this one opportunity - it’s true, sad and funny all at once.
I admired the screenplay for not making Craig out to be the traditionally dark, angry teenager who’s always quiet and introverted, as if the teenagers who dress in black and look morbid are the only ones having suicidal thoughts. Bad feelings are relative and the film knows this. Ironically, Craig appears rather upbeat and pleasant, which suggests depressed people aren’t so easy to spot.