It's Kind of a Funny Story
While the core of the story is one we've seen before, it's the side stories, the main theme of depression and the location of the psychiatric ward make this rather different, especially when our main character is a confused teenager housed up in the adult ward.
Unfortunately the teenage psychiatric ward is closed for the weekend and he can't be admitted, so the doctor admits him to the adult ward, a fact that immediately scares him as much as the world outside and he tries to back out, but it's too late, he's committed.
However things aren't as bad as they seem and one of the adults in the ward takes him under his wing to help him, and he finds that he's not the only teenager on the ward.
With the breathing space from his life he begins to find his own way and starts to find out who he really is and what he really wants out of life.
It took a little time to warm up to the film, probably because I had a little struggle to settle with the tone of the film and how I should be viewing it. It's because the film isn't as much of a comedy as I initially thought it would be. You can tell by the subject matter that it isn't a straight comedy but not soon after starting it seems so much more serious and even relevant that it does seem to be pitching itself away from being even a dark comedy, moving much towards the serious side of the subject at times. Yet despite all this it still remains funny enough for you to see, dare I say, the funny side of the story. That perhaps is one of the key messages for the film, for you always to find the amusing and lighter side of any story and not to take everything so seriously.
Once I got into the story and relaxed a little I did find start to find it funny, not rip roaring, out loud hilarious, but funny enough for you to connect with the characters and see the funny side of their serious story as they do, or to find enjoyment in the little things that they do day to day in the ward, finding the lighter moment amongst the serious to lift the tone.
What is great though is that this is delivered along with the characters and their situations and you do feel as though you are laughing and enjoying things with them. It's a strong comment to make about a film where you do get drawn into the characters and their stories to that degree, and it's all too easy to connect with pieces of each of the main characters. There's a little piece of truth and reality in each of the characters and I'm sure you'll find that they reflect something in your life too.
The setting of the psychiatric ward and the strange mix of characters may seem somewhat familiar but I think what they've done here is relate to real people and keep everything a lot more grounded and nearer a reality that the audience can find something to relate to.
Still the similarities with other films are there although it's hard to imagine a film about this scenario that didn't feature a group of people with problems into which is brought our main character, often less troubled than them, often struggling to make friends with them, but when they gain their trust a friendship appears and the lead changes them while they change the lead. Oh dear, it now sounds all too formulaic doesn't it?
Yes there are similarities, but there are enough differences to stand this film out a little. The biggest is that the person who is admitted is a mere sixteen years old and is just starting to deal with adult life, something we have all been through, and his emotions and situation are so identifiable to the audience, and yet he's brought into the middle of this adult ward and forced to deal with life in a much more adult way.
I did like the more subtle way that the two leading male characters slowly connect and bond over time, and that there is a way for them to help each other, and yet it isn't overplayed with emotion or dialogue and it doesn't become some big life altering force. The changes are smaller and more realistic than that. Neither of the characters are miraculously happy or have their issues solved by the end of the film they're just a little better, they have more understanding, or they are pointed a bit more in the right direction. Even saying that, Zach Galifianakis's character Bobby leaves you with the impression that he's harbouring much darker problems than we've seen or heard about and you feel that he isn't that far from where he was originally.
It's not all depression and darkly comic moments though, there are some really nice touching moments, and some moments to warm you and make you smile. Again these aren't overplayed but keep in the tone of the film really well.
There are good performances all round with the film, nothing too deep or powerful, and nothing to break the mould of the reality that's brought through the story. Keir Gilchrist is good in the lead and plays the troubled teenager well and he's backed up by Galifianakis being Galifianakis and various other recognisable actors, including an appearance by Viola Davis.
There are also some great moments, particularly with the musical choices, from the basketball scene to the Queen and David Bowie inspired number. These moments were filled with humour and brought the characters some light as well as the audience.
I enjoyed It's Kind of a Funny Story, and it is kind of a funny story. The dark humour comes out of a reality that many people will connect with easily and it never becomes too dark, nor too funny. There's plenty of quirkiness in the film and in the characters, and while the film is sad and thought provoking in places it still delivers some amusing and very touching moments. There's never anything too strong or overwhelming and despite the serious sounding material it's rather easy and enjoyable watching, the film-makers have managed to strike a fine balance with this film. However it is still melancholy and thought provoking at its core.