Zach Galifinakis elevates otherwise subpar material
Zach Galifianakis was for a long time the funniest standup comedian that no one had heard of. That is until he became one of the funniest parts of The Hangover, the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever, and snagged a meaty part opposite Jason Schwartzman in Bored to Death. While not a major star, Galifianakis has gone from being a part of a “Redneck Comedy Tour” rip-off with Patton Oswalt to starring opposite Robert Downey Jr. on the winter tent pole Due Date in less than two years. And in It’s Kind of a Funny Story he adds something new to his repertoire: dramatic acting chops.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a suicidal teenager who the film focuses on. When he checks himself into the psych ward of a hospital on his own, what he presumes will be an overnight stay is extended to five days for observation. Bobby (Galifianakis) becomes his good friend in the hospital as he endures the five days required of him, made slightly more tolerable by his newfound crush on Noelle (Emma Roberts). The film follows him through his stay as he learns more about himself and what he wants out of life. And while it’s rather perfunctory coming of age film, albeit one set in a mental health institution, the film manages to elevate itself because Zach Galifianakis carries most of the film with an unexpectedly deft dramatic touch.
Bobby is a man with a dark history of mental health issues and a daughter he rarely sees (but would like to). What could’ve been a slapstick role, or one that devolves into an offensive parody of a mental patient, is given a lot of dignity and grace from an actor who’s made his name with characters lacking both. This isn’t a brilliant performance but it’s a very good one, more so for the fact that it’s coming from an actor who hasn’t shown these sorts of acting chops before. Galifianakis has the better of the story arcs of any of the characters involved, about a man coming to grips with himself and his life, and he shows off a more nuanced side than normal. But the problem is that the film squanders by trying too hard to emulate indie films from Michael Gondry but without the visual flair.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have shown a flair for character driven pieces, crafting well received films Half Nelson and Sugar, but this film seems much more of a compromise for commercial viability than their previous ones. There’s more visual flair and less character work, opting to seemingly make this their Science of Sleep instead of a lighter One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They have enough visual flair to make it work but not enough light-heartedness; the film is going for a whimsical sort of approach but with an edge and it doesn’t work. Boden & Fleck are good directors when it comes to getting great stuff out of actors and don’t have a similar touch with style.
Based off the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story never finds the vibe it’s looking for.
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck Notable Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham Writer(s): Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck based off the novel “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.