Cuckoos Seek To Leave The Loony Nest
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Zack Galifianakis, his bushy beard and that obtuse style of his, have become a go-to punchline on the current comedic scene. His feature films include Into the Wild, Up in the Air, Youth in Revolt, and Dinner for Schmucks not to mention The Hangover. Let’s just say that, at this moment, he has taken up residence in our cultural consciousness and it doesn’t look like he’s planning on leaving any time soon.
This could certainly be a problem if he keeps punching the same line ad nauseam, but based on a rich mix of smart humanist comedy and affecting drama in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Galifianakis is ready to extend his horizons. And once again, he’s not even the main protagonist.
Craig (Keir Gilchrist looking like Justin Long’s decidedly less hip younger brother) accidentally commits himself to a hospital psych ward after a mild suicidal episode. He doesn’t realize that by begging for help, he signs himself up for five-day mandatory stay where among others, he encounters Bobby (Galifianakis), a “vacationing” father with a young daughter and his own suicidal issues, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), a young “cutter” who has marred her own beautiful face. Craig, a Type-A kid struggling with personal and outside pressures to succeed, must acquire the wisdom to learn the difference between the things he can control and those he cannot. Along the way, he will also become the instrument of change for not only Bobby and Noelle, but a host of other types locked in the ward.
Despite the earnestness of Gilchrist and the agreeable story from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (the writing-directing team behind Half Nelson and Sugar), Galifianakis exerts such gravitational force that he sucks the audience into a tight orbit around Bobby. Like Craig, we are intrigued by Bobby’s seeming control and ease among the unstable community of 3 North, but we note the hints within his affable charms that can shift towards his more destructive tendencies. Watching Galifianakis work here brings to mind the restraint of Robin Williams in his more dramatic efforts. The charisma and humor are not turned off. Instead these traits are bent to the will of character and narrative.
It is kind of funny to see Galifianakis twist his supporting role into an off-center lead, but the real story will be revealed when someone places him solely in the spotlight. Based on his work here, that’s not such a
It’s Kind of a Funny Story will be shown exclusively at the Neon Movies
Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at firstname.lastname@example.org