High School's tough, so Craig tries a psych ward. Craig is a 16-year-old kid who seemingly has everything in the world going for him, good family and friends and good grades, but Craig is suicidal and doesn't understand why, so he checks himself into a psychiatric ward to try and cure himself without his high school friends knowing that he's been committed. As is per movies such as this, Craig discovers himself over his five day stay at the psych ward, making friends and helping change their lives whilst also discovering love, but unlike many other movies, it works so organically within this story that it is believable.
The opening scene shows Craig getting up on the edge of a suspension bridge, about to jump, then he is stopped by his parents, who are only stopping Craig because they want to know what to do with the expensive bike in which they bought him, if he commits suicide. Of course, this was all a dream, but it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It's Kind of a Funny Story laces the typically untouchable subjects of the human psyche that make people squirm and it makes you not just laugh about it, but understand it in the way in which we need to understand in order to cure our psychological problems.
Craig learns self-empowerment, that he actually has something going for him in life, and that the unhappiness he was exhibiting was because he was not living the life he wanted. This is demonstrated in some spectacular sequences, including one where the entire cast of the movie sings Queen's "Under Pressure" as if in an '80s glam rock music video, or an animated sequence that careens through cartoony city streets showing the unlocking of Craig's artistic abilities. And actually, the movie takes itself seriously. These sequences all take place in Craig's mind, as do many other sequences in the movie. Craig's voice-overs coupled with his imagination transpire through dream sequences as to what he's thinking at the moment, what all his friends at school are thinking, or any other thing that may transpire in a teenage boy's mind. It is through these dream sequences and almost Ferris Bueller-like asides from Craig that make this movie the rich and emotional experience that it is.
While It's Kind of a Funny Story is technically a comedy, any comedy that comes within the story only comes through the characters simply being the characters and not through Hollywood contrivances of plot and story. The acting is spot on, never really a sour note with Keir Gilchrist as Craig or Ema Roberts as his love, Noel. Possibly the most surprising performance is that of comedian Zach Galifianakis, who delivers a fine dramatic performance as psych ward patient and Craig's best friend, Bobby, and while Galifianakis is given plenty of moments to make you laugh, the through line of his character's desire to be with his daughter but not being able to overcome his depression is quite possibly the most moving aspect of this piece of cinema.
It's Kind of a Funny Story is what I'd imagine the result would be if John Hughes decided to make a movie about a suicidal teen, supplement his usual High School aesthetic and applying it to a psychiatric ward, that in all actuality has way more intriguing options for interesting characters than an ordinary high school. While the movie is coated by the directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson) with an overt indy, hipster aesthetic, much like last year's (500) Days of Summer it does not deter from the sheer enjoyment and impact that you get upon watching this heartwarming movie.
I give It's Kind of a Funny Story an A!