Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story - Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (2010)

Here’s the the movie review where I finally come out as a mentally ill American.

Yep, I'm on four different eveners and I'm still just as loony as can be.

And that’s why “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” just meant the world to me.

I have no idea if all the “norms” out there will find it just as wonderful as I did, but this film simply got it perfectly.And that was no easy task. If it had strayed just a hair to one side, it would have ventured into the side of melodrama.

Had it gone of the path in the other direction, the characters would have been characters and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” would have been just another wacky comedy about a bunch of loonies.

But this porridge is just right.

And here’s why. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck understand, like very few filmmakers I’ve come across before, that people who are completely effed up beyond belief can have as great a capacity for strength, empathy and compassion as anyone else.

In fact, their dysfunctions usually make them better people for others to lean on.
That was Boden and Fleck’s theme in “Half-Nelson” and “Sugar,” two dramas that explored this notion darkly, and it’s what they’re trying to tell us here. Only this time, these filmmakers are showing us they can be warm as well as dark.

I’m not going to waste a whole lot of time going through the plot. You’ve seen the trailers by now.

For that matter, a lot of you have probably seen the film.

So, I’ll do just a quick rundown, because that’s how you do things in a proper review.

Craig is 16 and suicidal. He bypasses the bridge he was thinking of jumping from and instead goes to the hospital to get help.

He is admitted and put into the adult psychiatric ward because the teen ward is under renovations.He befriends Bobby, a guy who is hesitant to open up and tell Craig what his problems are, and is instantly attracted to Noël, another teen stuck in the adult wing.

And the rest of the movie is how they all relate and heal, and if I talked about the plot more, it would just sound mundane and it’s anything but so I’ll stop.
The plot really isn’t the point.

The film’s greatest strength is the way it refuses to condescend to its characters, even the ones on the peripheral who are the most troubled.

In the hands of someone else, these characters would have been thrown under the bus in the name of comedy. I shudder to think what Christopher Guest would have made out of this script.

The patients are used for laughs here, but never cheap laughs.

One of my favorite moments in this film is very muted and understated.

It doesn’t have a huge punch line or great catchphrase, so naturally it isn’t featured in any of the trailers and if you’re not mentally ill or have never been suicidal, it probably won’t stand out to you when you see “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.”

It happens when Craig is talking to Noël, she asks him about how he wants to kill himself, but didn’t actually end up trying.
He manages to stammer out a couple of sentences and explains himself terribly. Then he looks up at her and says, “Does that make any sense?”
And she says, “Yeah.”

That tiny moment, that short back and forth captures how those of us who are fundamentally just broken human beings understand each other so well and need each other so desperately.

Noël is a fascinating character precisely because we’re not told much about her.

We don’t know why she’s there will all the people who “need help.”

She has scars on her face and wrist and casually mentions cutting herself at one point, but apart from the fact that she loves music and seems to be exceptionally kind, she’s a mystery.

And Emma Roberts plays Noël flawlessly.

The rest of the film follows suit, with the greatest moments being the smallest ones.
Sure the funny moments you saw in the previews are entertaining, but the greatness of the film is revealed slowly in the quiet friendships that develop between these broken people.

And that’s another thing Boden and Fleck understand.

People who don’t suffer from mental illness mean well and they can help.

But this film is just achingly beautiful because it illustrates that those of us who are broken are drawn to each other.And that’s because we understand and we need the sympathy that can only come from someone who feels that illogical crazy things we do.
That’s the essence of our healing. Knowing we’re not alone.

Saying something that shouldn’t make sense to anybody at all and having someone who is just as lost as you are look at you and say, “I understand.”

And the ending of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is perfect.

Craig rides away on his bike. And forget about one day at a time. Boden & Fleck know that there are a lot of us that have to take it one breath at a time.

Craig takes those deep breaths, the kind we have to take to stave off panic attacks and the movie ends.

And watching this movie, all us crazies, all of us broken people understood that other people know how this feels.

And would you look at that, some of them are making movies.

I have not cried in 26 years, but if I were emotionally capable of tears, I would have wept right there in my seat.

If you have issues, go see this movie.

If you love someone with issues, go see this movie.

It’s wonderful.

And here’s my video review.

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