Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Pressed For Success

film_IKOAFS_Still1Angsty teen gets mental in imaginative comedy, 'Funny Story'

Craig doesn't have any more than the usual teenage angst, for the usual reasons—stress over parents, school, the future, and, of course, a girl. But, like most 16-year-olds, Craig lacks a certain perspective; he believes his feelings are more extreme than everybody else's. When they start leading to suicide dreams, he opts for desperate measures in It's Kind Of A Funny Story, a droll, surprisingly winsome coming-of-age comedy-drama from the writing-directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (their first two films were Half-Nelson, and the impressive Sugar).


Resisting the advice that he should just go home and tell his parents what's troubling him, Craig pleads for results—and is ushered into the Adult Psychiatric facility upstairs (the teen ward is being renovated). As soon as he signs himself in, he starts to regret it: his surly roommate never leaves his bed and Craig suddenly finds himself—gulp—"committed" to a minimum five-day stay among schizophrenics and other "nutjobs." Hoping for a pill to make him feel better, Craig  wasn't expecting a stint in the Cuckoo's Nest, but when his parents arrive, more relieved than anxious on his behalf, he realizes he's stuck.


But just when we start to feel this story isn't going to be funny enough, the film hits its stride. Craig starts growing on us; Gilchrist shapes him into a wry, honest commentator on his own failings who grows wiser and more self-deprecatingly funny as the story progresses. Zach Galifianakis is great as Bobby, the most seemingly "normal" of Craig's fellow inmates (the brash one, who knows how to sneak out of lock-up), who not only mentors the younger man in life and love, but joins him in an emotional growth-spurt or two. Then there's pretty, teenage Noelle (Emma Roberts), a sometimes-cutter under observation, whose challenging forthright manner and high spirits begin to coax Craig out of his obsession with his best friend's girlfriend (a sexy Zoe Kravitz).


Not a lot transpires inside the lock-up that we don't expect, but the proceedings are handled with a tremendous amount of sympathy, grace, and adroit comedy. The subtext about the way modern kids are pressured to achieve scholastic and financial "success," often at the expense of simply living their young lives, is well handled. Craig tells the staff psychologist (the wonderful Viola Davis) the last day he can remember feeling "happy and free" was in the eighth grade. Then "everything changed: girls, grades, two wars, a messed-up economy, they all seemed to happen at once, on the same day!" And of course, Craig discovers he can't leave his emotional baggage at the door, creating as much stress and romantic complications for himself inside as out.


Film_It'sKindofaFunnyStory Fortunately for Craig, this is not Shock Corridor; the portrait of a mental ward and its inhabitants is pretty benign. Still, if the setting feels a bit cutesy, the filmmakers' storytelling tools are imaginative and fun. Clever diversions include a 30-second montage of the successful life Craig will forfeit if he doesn't get into a prestigious summer course, and several wonderful animated, cityscape drawings that become ever more fantastical as he loosens up his psyche in art class. Best of all, a sequence in music class features the best performance of a Queen song ("Under Pressure," natch) by someone other than Queen ever filmed. The story may not have much that's new to say about life, love, and growing up, but it's the journey that counts in this buoyant, appealing comedy. Adapted from the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini, the film takes a while to get started. At first it feels sort of like a warmed-over Woody Allen retread about a neurotic, misfit New Yorker trying to cope. Freaked out over a suicide dream in which his well-meaning but clueless parents argue over what will become of his expensive bike, Craig (Keir Gilchrist), takes himself over to the nearest ER. ("I want to kill myself," he announces to the receptionist. "Fill this out," is her blasé reply, handing him a form.)

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

★★★ (out of four)

With Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, and Emma Roberts. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. A Focus Features release. Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. . Watch film trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management