Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Trying to find a comedy that’s actually funny these days is just as difficult as hitting the lottery. What actually passes for comedy is most often crude, stupid or, quite frankly, sick or lewd humor. The bottom line is I don’t really find anything funny in today’s so-called comedies.

We’ve forgotten what comedy really is. Wait a minute! I’ve actually found a movie that is genuinely funny and will make you laugh. The movie I’m talking about is It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It’s based on the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini. His motivation for writing the book is based on his own personal experiences being hospitalized for depression.

Stay with me. I know a book about depression doesn’t sound funny. But remember, the movie is titled It’s Kind of a Funny Story. After all, what doesn’t kill you will make you laugh. This film is a true gem. It’s not often I watch a movie that I thoroughly enjoy. This film is the type of movie that often flies under the radar screen. It doesn’t receive the type of attention that it deserves. There is so much truth about life and its complexities packed into this story that it’s almost difficult to know where to start.

The plot follows Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), a sixteen year old Brooklyn native who’s dealing with depression and contemplating suicide. He checks himself into a nearby hospital, which lands him in a psychiatric ward. He realizes his mistake, but he is now forced to spend five days with an assortment of oddball and dysfunctional characters. That’s where the fun really starts.

Here he meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a middle-aged man who seeks refuge occasionally in the psych ward as sort of a vacation to get away from life. Bobby ultimately becomes Craig’s mentor and shows him the ropes in the mental ward. Of course, there’s a girl involved, Novel (Emma Roberts), who is also suffering from depression and attempted suicide. You’re probably thinking, “How could this be funny?” Trust me. It’s funny.

So what’s Craig’s problem? Why is he depressed? Craig says it’s complicated. You see, Craig goes to an elite high school for pre-professionals. He’s also trying to get into an advanced summer program. You get the picture. He needs to have an impressive resume to get into the right college so he can get the right job that will lead to the right car and the right girl and, of course, a big stack of cash—in other words, the American Dream. His parents have high expectations and already have laid out his life. The problem is this isn’t the life Craig wants. He faces the same problems that many teens find themselves dealing with. They don’t know how to express themselves or how to talk about the things that are bottled up inside of them. They often feel forced into life-changing decisions. They feel their lives are out of control, and they can’t do anything about it. And, of course, the expectations of high achievement also lead to anxiety and depression.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is both funny and serious. It uses comedy as a vehicle to explore difficult and dark material. At its heart, this film is a commentary on the complexities of becoming an adult and a coming-of-age story wrapped into one. Craig describes the day everything in his life was carefree. And then it was as if overnight someone threw a switch and everything changed. Life became serious. Everything mattered. Every decision had consequences. This becomes the source of Craig’s depression. How do you deal with life?

The fact is we’re all dealing with the same issue. It’s Kind of a Funny Story provides insight into why kids are depressed. But, despite all the talk about depression and suicide, this movie presents an optimistic and hopeful outcome to life and the joy and satisfaction that life offers. Craig’s real healing starts when he begins to help others in the psych ward, which leads to his recovery.

It’s amazing how this little comedy has so much wisdom to offer. For example, in one scene, Craig is talking to Novel. He is able to be comfortable around her because he can be himself and doesn’t have to be what other people expect him to be. Well, isn’t that a message we all need to hear and embrace?

Everything in this film works. The acting is spot on with perfect casting. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is creative and innovative in how it moves the narrative forward. You will be amazed to see just how funny depression can be.

One therapist in the movie pretty much summed up the entire theme in this well-known prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


  1. I agree!!! I LOVED this movie ;)

  2. Great review! Loved the movie too. My wife and I watched it together and echo all you said above! If you haven't seen it, rent the DVD right away!