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It's Kind of a Funny Story(2010)
At 5AM on a Sunday in Brooklyn, 16-year old Craig Gilner bicycles up to the entrance of a mental health clinic: Stressed out from the demands of being a teenager, before his parents and younger sister are even awake, Craig checks himself into Argenon Hospital and is admitted by a psychiatrist. But the youth ward is temporarily closed - so he finds himself stuck in the adult ward. One of the patients, Bobby, soon becomes both Craig's mentor and protege, while Craig is also quickly drawn to another 16-year-old displaced to the adult ward, the sensitive Noelle, who just might make him forget his longtime unrequited crush Nia. With a minimum five days' stay imposed on him by staff psychiatrist Dr. Eden Minerva, it's kind of a funny story...
For more about It's Kind of a Funny Story and the It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray release, see It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 4, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoe Kravitz, Aasif Mandvi
Directors: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
» See full cast & crew
It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray Review
An underrated, overlooked comedy worth the price of admission...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 4, 2011
It's Kind of a Funny Story is kind of funny... and sweet. And heartfelt. A little bit sappy, sure, but genuine. Honest and sincere yet quirky and memorable. Spirited and infectious. Relevant. Meaningful. Timely even. An unexpected, satisfying blend of Rushmore and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from Half Nelson duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, not to mention a smartly penned coming-of-age dramedy with sharp wit and sharper performances. It's also fairly divisive... and not suited to everyone's tastes. Some will find it trite and precocious, others will scoff at its subdued comic stylings and still others will label its most touching moments contrived, irritating or worse. Make no mistake, It's Kind of a Funny Story is kind of a lot of things but, as far as I'm concerned, it really works.
After seriously contemplating suicide, 15-year-old high school student Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist, United States of Tara) convinces an ER doctor (Aasif Mandvi, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) to admit him. To his squirrelly dismay though, the hospital's psychiatric ward doesn't provide the quick two-hour fix naive young Craig was hoping for. Faced with frightening patients, legitimate mental illnesses, looming school deadlines and a fear that his close friends will uncover his secret, the boy becomes desperate to leave. But when the ward's primary psychiatrist, Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis, Doubt), and chief attendant, Smitty (Jeremy Davies, in full Daniel Faraday mode), inform him that all admitted patients must remain under supervision for at least five days, he reluctantly settles in and tries to lay as low as possible.
Hiding in his room doesn't work -- his near-catatonic roommate, Muqtada (Bernard White, The Event), sends him searching for some dose of normalcy -- and trying to talk with the other teens on the floor doesn't go anywhere. But that all changes when he befriends Bobby (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover), a less volatile patient who, secrets aside, takes Craig under his wing. Before you can say life-changing experience, Craig begins falling for a young girl named Noelle (Emma Roberts, Nancy Drew), comes to realize his academic pursuits have been eclipsing his artistic abilities, and starts evaluating the relationships he shares with his overly protective mother (Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls), emotionally distant father (Jim Gaffigan, Away We Go), arrogant best friend (Thomas Mann) and his first love (ZoŽ Kravitz, X-Men: First Class).
To state what will be all too obvious to anyone who spends time with It's Kind of a Funny Story: no, hospital psych wards aren't typically this chummy, patients aren't generally this friendly and impromptu group catharsis sessions don't spring up wherever shy 15-year-olds go. But Fleck and Boden handle the story's potentially debilitating trappings in stride. Like Ned Vizzini's 2006 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, the film relies on Craig's wallflower charm and budding charisma to ease through its more problematic stretches; a tricky flick of the wrist Gilchrist executes with gangly grace and awkward ease. And there's just enough authenticity sprinkled into the mix to help the finer points of his performance -- and, to a greater extent, Fleck and Boden's screenplay -- ring true. Craig isn't a boiling vat of self-loathing teen angst destined for humbling self-actualization, he's simply an overwhelmed 15-year-old boy who comes to learn a thing or two about life. More importantly, he isn't a victim in any sense of the word, nor does he attempt to present himself as one. His parents aren't perfect, but he doesn't saddle them with blame. His aspirations aren't unrealistic, just misguided. His depression isn't narcissistic, only unwarranted. His epiphanies aren't airtight, but he admits as much. His course isn't righted forever and he doesn't suggest otherwise. All the while, the line between Craig and Gilchrist disappears altogether as the actor, whether by intuitive casting or innate talent, becomes one with his character.
Galifianakis shoulders some of Gilchrist's burden, dialing down his beardy man-child schtick just enough to flex his well-tuned dramatic chops, as does Roberts, who brings a youthful spark and fledgling fragility to the psych ward Galifianakis simply isn't in a position to offer. But this is Gilchrist's film, a fact the newly A-list comedian and wispy would-be starlet seem willing and eager to endorse. The rest of the supporting cast is up to the task at hand as well, even if the skilled character actors Fleck and Boden have assembled fulfill rather one-note roles. Again though, this is Craig's story, his subjective account and, ultimately, a film targeting younger audiences. Applying seasoned adult sensibilities to what is essentially a more lighthearted teenage dramedy is counterproductive and, I strongly suspect, the reason some adult critics and filmfans have greeted It's Kind of a Funny Story with such a chilly reception. Craig reminds me a lot of myself at fifteen and, as a volunteer youth worker, is practically a mirror image of many of the overworked, overstressed, slightly overprivileged teens I've encountered in recent years. Vizzini, Fleck and Boden successfully tap the vein of young American teens swamped by the pressures of an increasingly demanding culture and happily adhere to the boundaries of what proves to be an idiosyncratic but affecting story.
It's Kind of a Funny Story won't strike everyone as funny... or sweet, heartfelt, genuine, sincere, memorable, infectious, relevant, meaningful, timely, sharp, satisfying or, frankly, all that good. For others, it will be all these things and more. My advice? Give it a rent and see how you feel by the time the credits roll.
It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray, Video Quality
It's Kind of a Funny Story checks itself into high definition with a stable and decisive 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer that faithfully represents the film as presented in theaters. It isn't the sharpest patient in the Blu ward -- even if many a closeup borders on revelatory -- but it is true to Fleck and Boden's intentions. Antiseptic greens, sterile whites and desaturated blues dominate nearly every scene, but lifelike skintones, deep blacks and the occasional burst of primary power speak to the strength and substance of the presentation. Craig's dream sequences are particularly colorful, so much so that they transform the psychiatric ward into a far less inviting place. Detail is also quite impressive, despite being more inconsistent than other aspects of the presentation. Most of the film's softness can be chalked up to Andrij Parekh's photography, but a few brief instances of smearing suggest the presence of some minor shot-specific noise reduction. (Most likely applied by the filmmakers in post-production.) Thankfully, it isn't a prevailing issue. Far more often than not, fine textures are refined and well-resolved, closeups are striking, sweaters and beards showcase every fiber and hair, edge definition is crisp and clean, and a faint veneer of grain prevents the image from drifting into dangerous territory. The technical encode is extremely proficient as well. I didn't notice any substantial artifacting, banding, crush, aliasing or aberrant noise, or notice any unsightly blips on my compression radar. All in all, it may not be jaw-dropping, but it is thoroughly satisfying.
It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There isn't much to say when it comes to Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Like the film's video transfer, its lossless audio mix is a faithful representation of its source, albeit a restrained, fairly two-dimensional source that simply doesn't pack much punch. Dialogue is clear and intelligible on the whole, but a handful of lines wander off and get lost. The LFE channel mainly keeps to itself, springing to action when Craig escapes into his own mind and languishing whenever his focus returns to the hospital ward. The rear speakers quietly fall in line, blooming when art and fantasy sweep the stage but retreating whenever subdued ambience is all the soundscape has to offer. Even so, Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," Maxence Cyrin's haunting piano rendition of "Where is My Mind," Method Man & Redman's "Da Rockwilder," Broken Social Scene's score and most of Fleck and Boden's soundtrack selections sound fantastic. The result? Whenever the film's music subsides, directionality is mildly engaging at best, dynamics are underwhelming and the soundfield, while adequate, doesn't really make a strong case for itself. And that's the long and short of it. Universal's track isn't a failure by any means, but it also doesn't fully immerse the listener in anything beyond the film's music.
It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No audio commentary? No worthwhile featurettes? No thanks. Twenty minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes are certainly appreciated, but It's Kind of a Funny Story deserves more supplemental attention than this.
It's Kind of a Funny Story Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I can't stress it enough: It's Kind of a Funny Story isn't for everyone. I felt a palpable connection to the material and characters -- flaws and all -- but I also can see why some might shake their heads and walk away. Luckily, Universal's Blu-ray release is more straight forward. It doesn't include a deep or rewarding supplemental package, but its excellent video transfer and solid DTS-HD Master Audio track showcase the film as intended and that's all that matters. If you haven't had the pleasure, rent It's Kind of a Funny Story for yourself. If you've already enjoyed its sweet and, yes, funny wares, add it to your cart without hesitation.
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