It's Kind of a Funny Story
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this irreverent dramedy based on writer Neil Vizzini's young adult novel It's Kind of a Funny Story -- which co-stars offbeat comedian Zach Galifianakis and former tween star Emma Roberts -- will likely appeal to teens thanks to its relatable take on how overwhelming life and expectations can be when you're in high school. Its mix of teen angst (the main character begins the movie feeling suicidal) and mental hospital drama and hijinks includes some salty language (including "s--t"), discussions about serious issues like suicide, and unsettling situations. There's also some kissing and making out and other references to sex.
What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) has been thinking about suicide -- how to do it, where to do it. Life has become too overwhelming for him: The kids at his specialized high school are hypercompetitive and overachieving, his father is pressuring him to apply for a summer program that will look good on his college applications, and he can't stop thinking about his best friend's girlfriend (Zoe Kravitz). Worried that he'll actually follow his plan to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge through, Craig checks into a mental hospital. Since the teen ward is under repair, he's left to mingle with the grown-ups until the doctors figure out the best course of action. There, Craig meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), the leader of the pack, who helps Craig settle in while he prepares for his own impending release, and Noelle (Emma Roberts), another teen with whom Craig immediately feels a kinship.
Is it any good?
There's so much to relish in this coming-of-age dramedy based on the same-named novel by Ned Vizzini. There's the story, which is rich and witty and confidently told. There's Gilchrist, who's both vulnerable enough and bold enough for the role. (A curious mix, but he has it, and it works.) And then there's Galifianakis, who proves that he's got a much wider range than his previous outings, mostly comedies, have revealed. He can be broken and funny at the same time. (Another curious mix.)
But the film is maddening, too. It bends to an inclination long seen in movies to paint mental hospitals (and their patients) as a wonderland of sorts, with eccentric patients able to crack wise given the opportunity and equally eccentric teachers and volunteers guiding their way. (It's either that scenario or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest...) Is there really nothing in between? Aren't there people with heavy-duty problems who don't speak like stand-up comics and cheerleaders? Still, that's a forgivable offense, given how much empathy exists in IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. It delivers with fascinating detours into the mind of a teenager living in a world defined by accomplishments (with a capital A), when, really, it's accomplishment enough to be able to live a little, laugh a little, and embrace the flawed nature of humanity.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the pressures that Craig faces in the movie. Are real-life teens as stressed out as that? Why? What are some ways to cope with the pressures of family, school, friendship, and dating?
Is there a stigma against admitting that you're depressed? Is it worse among teenagers? Why?
What is the movie saying about life as a teen in today's world? Do you agree?