It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writer: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Based on: Ned Vizzini‘s novel
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Dana DeVestern, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Aasif Mandvi, Zoë Kravitz, Thomas Mann, Viola Davis, Bernard White
Seen on: 16.5.2021
Content Note: (attempted) suicide, suicidal ideation
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) has been thinking about suicide a lot. So much so that he has scared himself into getting committed. To his horror he realizes that the psychiatric ward for teens is closed at the moment, though, and he finds himself in the adult station. There the charismatic Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) takes him under his wing as Craig tries to figure out whether he actually belongs in the hospital, and what he feels for fellow patient Noelle (Emma Roberts).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a rather realistic look at what a psychiatric ward looks like, with a problematic take on mental health regardless and a slightly too sweet ending that doesn’t fit the setting of the film.
Movies that are set in psychiatric wards usually are a mess in how they depict said wards and mental illness in general. That is not the case for It’s Kind of a Funny Story, I thought. It’s a rather sober look at what psychiatric hospitals look like: not quite as exciting or dangerous as movies would have you think. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be scary though, and once Craig has to face the reality of being committed (something he wanted himself), we can see realization dawning on him: it isn’t really fun to be committed. Unfortunately, that’s something that the film seems to forget itself the longer it goes on.
There is no doubt that Craig is struggling and he is not exactly healthy. But whether things are bad enough for him to have to stay in a psychiatry? I’d say it’s doubtful. He obviously needed help that he didn’t see how to get otherwise. But the film is insistent that he is just a little too far up his own ass and doesn’t realize how good things are for him. I find that approach not particularly helpful. Yes, there is something to be said for not taking things too seriously, and focusing on the resources you have and not just the things you lack. But ultimately, you can be lucky in life in general and still mentally ill. You may be thrown by things that other people can handle with ease, and that doesn’t make it any less difficult for you. Other people may have it worse than you – and you still deserve help.
Instead we get a saccharine ending where Craig realizes that really, he has it very good, compared to the poor shmucks who really struggle. And yeah, there is a “this doesn’t mean that all my problems are solved” voice-over tacked on but it just isn’t enough to outweigh the general vibe of all problems actually being solved for Craig now.
This makes the film a little difficult to stomach, despite it being rather entertaining for the most part, despite its very familiar story. Mostly it’s the realistic setting and Zach Galifianakis who set this film apart. Galifianakis is really fantastic in the role, giving the film more heart and life than any of the other characters. Still, overall I couldn’t quite shake my discomfort at the film.