Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 10 October 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Psychiatric wards are hardly fodder for hilarity, Hollywood attempts to the contrary (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Crazy People).
Admitting a semi-suicidal, misguided teen for a five-day observation period does not make the situation any more humorous, even when it’s the teen’s clueless idea in the first place. By the time Craig (Keir Gilchrist) wises up to the fact that he doesn’t belong there (about five minutes in) it’s too late to change his mind.
Feeling pressure from the course load of a demanding school, an unrequited crush, and the pending deadline of a prestigious summer program’s application, Craig’s thoughts turn to ending it all by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. He rides his bike to the neighborhood hospital instead, and convinces a doctor to admit him immediately.
Craig is to be housed in the adult ward due to renovation of the juvenile facility. How appropriate – NOT. That’s just one of the many plot holes that hamper the film.
The patients are eccentric and odd, more endearing than dangerous. Jimmy (Lou Myers) patrols the halls periodically proclaiming, “It’ll come to ya!” “The Professor” (Novella Nelson) wears surgical gloves and doesn’t like to be touched. Craig’s own roommate, a middle-aged Egyptian named Muqtada (Bernard White) refuses to leave his bed. Solomon (Daniel London) is Hassidic (yarmulke and forelocks) and strides down the hall demanding that others “keep it down.”
Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) is a big, wild-haired bear of a man full of good natured nonchalance who bribes guards with medication and impersonates hospital personnel to roam the building. Tormented by the outside world and a shrewish ex-wife (Mary Birdsong) he hopes to graduate to a group home. Bobby shows Craig how to navigate in (and out of) the psych ward and talks him into entertaining a new, enlightened perspective on his young life. Insight into his own situation escapes him.
Craig it seems has the ability to give his fellow patients moments of clarity. His five days pass by in a mild swirl of conversation, activity and rule breaking, always accompanied by the teen angst that brought him there. Transformations occur.
Fretted over by his well-meaning parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan), Craig finds out from his eternal crush Nia (Zoe Kravitz) that he’s now perceived as a high school hero; even she sees him as edgy and cool.
During his stay Craig learns he can draw, sing, attract the amorous attention of a female and motivate others.
Fellow teen patient Noelle (Emma Roberts) is a self destructive free spirit who likes to cut herself, but she’s attractive so Craig is smitten and romance blooms. That does not mean however that two unbalanced teens with suicidal tendencies would be allowed easy access to the hospital’s rooftop for a kiss. Plot holes can be as annoying as pot holes.
Meanwhile, Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis) has several meetings with Craig to gauge his suitability for release.
Devoid of any great highs or lows, there is only the whiff of a payoff in the 101 minute journey to a matter-of-fact epiphany that can be summed up in a self-evident sentence that Craig utters in a monotone toward the end of the film.
Keir Gilchrist is likeable enough, with a face full of anxiety and bewildered timidity. Zach Galifianakis calms down long enough to pull off a serious scene or two. Viola Davis makes a credible therapist, dispensing logic and Zoloft in equal proportion. Zoe Kravitz and Emma Roberts are notable for being offspring of other celebrities, but their roles here could have been filled by any number of young actresses.
Co-directors Anna Boden (Sugar) and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) also wrote the screenplay adaptation from Ned Vizzini’s novel. The two provide quirky circumstances and character turmoil but at such a glacial pace it feels like the viewer is doing all five of Craig’s observation days with him.
Despite the opportunities for conflict and self-realization, the story is left to just roll along in an uninspired manner, allowing us to understand why Muqtada never wanted to get out of bed.
The funny thing about 'It’s Kind of a Funny Story' is that it’s not.