Based on the acclaimed young adult novel by Ned Vizzini, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a coming-of-age indie dramedy in the same vein of 2009’s “Adventureland”.
The film follows fifteen-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who, after contemplating suicide, decides to admit himself into an adult psychiatric ward. During his time in the ward, Craig reflects on the events that have brought him here and builds connections with the ward’s other occupants, namely middle-aged father Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) and Noelle (Emma Roberts), an emotionally-scarred teenage girl. As the film progresses, the bond Craig has formed with his fellow patients strengthens and his own outlook on life begins to change.
The narrative is predictable, but the material is so aptly handled by directing duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden that the film remains strong. To their credit, Fleck and Boden recognize the humdrum nature of several scenes and manage to reinvigorate them with unconventional stylistic choices. The remarkable way in which Fleck and Boden handle a rooftop-set scene involving Craig and Noelle is particularly refreshing.
As the naïve but compassionate Craig, Gilchrist (TV’s “The United States of Tara”) has all the attributes of a charming lead in spades. Equally charming is Roberts (“Valentine’s Day”), who is captivating as Noelle — a character every bit as fragile as she is beautiful. It’s the strong chemistry between Gilchrist and Roberts, that gives a lot of dramatic weight to the Craig/Noelle/Nia (Zoë Kravitz) love-triangle — an otherwise trite plot device.
However it’s Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”) who is undoubtedly the film’s strongest performer, managing to steal every scene from his skilled co-stars as Bobby — a wise man plagued by his own insecurities and family problems. Able to blend his trademark humor with more tender emotional moments, the layers Galifianakis adds to Bobby make him the film’s single most tragic figure.
In the end, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is both delightfully charming and genuinely funny. Even the predictable narrative doesn’t make the film’s impact any less significant.