Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It’s Kind of a Funny…Movie

By Tyler Manoukian

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In light of recent media notice concerning teen suicide, the media has centered its attention on a now very common childhood dilemma – depression. While much discussion has been aimed towards reducing bullying in childhood environments, a very relevant tangent has gained some steam – the subject of emotional and mental health of teens.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” features a strong supportive cast founded off the star power of Zach Galifianakis as Bobby and Emma Roberts as Noelle, with the lead role performed by Keir Gilchrist (“Dead Silence”) as Craig Gilner.

Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, the story features Gilner, a depressed teen who checks himself into a local psychiatric ward. Worried that he might commit suicide, he checks himself in to Three North, the adult ward, where he finds friendship, intimacy and self-acceptance. The story deals with Craig’s emotional problems resulting from the less than appealing pressures society has put him under and his battle to conform to societal norms.

While calling attention to a major issue many face today, the movie did nothing to raise awareness or bring to the forefront the true problems depressed teens face. It starts with an average, very cliché plot, which does what most other movies have been known to do – aim to please the crowd. The plot tells the story of a depressed teen’s lowest point who suddenly realizes his life is not as bad as he thought.

Self-aware Gilchrist is not the ideal lead actor as his performance is something to get used to during the film. He does not do a very good job representing a teenager who has struggled with depression due to exorbitant amounts of stress. Once he rids himself of the feel-sorry-for-me attitude, Gilchrist gives a spectacular performance that any audience can get behind and support. As good as he was, his acting was spotty at best. In scenes where the emotional triggers needed to be prominently forged in order to sell his role as a depressed teen, they were nonexistent. As a result, his lack of emotionally driven acting takes away from the overall growth of the character.

Since the release of “The Hangover,” fans have anxiously awaited Galifianakis’ breakthrough performance, and this film delivered. The weird and screwy role as Bobby preludes Galifianakis’ dramatic breakthrough performance. His character successfully transitions from off and mysterious to a weary and disturbed yet caring individual. Frequently cast in a role with more comedic leeway, Galifianakis handled his role quite well, proving his worth in both comedy and drama. Unfortunately, his solid performance is hindered by the horribly underdeveloped role in which he is cast. While he is not the main character, his dealings with real-world problems are just as important as Craig’s for the story to work. The lack of character build-up slightly thwarts his accomplishments because we do not know enough of his story.

The aloofness of “Funny Story” comes from its lack of consistency. It features its share of funny lines, packed with intelligence and wisdom. While sometimes insightful, a big detractor is the clarity. Laughable and insanely awkward scenes have you chuckling while the next ones are more like a dull therapy session with the audience concerning Craig’s mental health.

This new type of comedic drama or “dramedy,” bounces between a feel good story and an early age intervention. Its coolness helps to teach others the values of life. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” features the self-loathing, overdramatic teen who learns the lessons of growing up, including empathy, sensitivity, and life appreciation. However, the film annoyingly suggests that depression can be solved by discovering something you love to do, telling your parents how you really feel and by wooing a girl who is into Radiohead and The Pixies.

Emma Roberts’ role as Noelle plays a big part in the development of Craig’s character. She is the only other teen on Three North, and Craig is instantly love struck by Noelle’s distinctive ambiance. Her role seemed to show Craig a side of life he had not experienced since his early years. Noelle becomes the center of Craig’s affection throughout the movie, which in some ways had a negative impact on the film’s progress.

Though the film’s inconsistent plot paired with a sugarcoated teen depression story did not make for the most accurate depiction, it still managed to wow the audience due to the breakthrough acting by Galifianakis. However, the inconsistent comedy directed by Boden and Fleck trivialized teen psychiatric treatment to the point where it is seen as cool.

Overall, the mostly cliché film has your typical romantic conflict, which takes away from the intended plot line. Regrettably, the romance seems to take precedent, therefore undermining the rest of the story: the true struggles of a depressed teen.

Tyler Manoukian can be reached at [email protected]

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