Movie Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story
SPOILER ALERT FROM PRETTY MUCH HERE ON IN
THE RECAP: Craig's a 16-year-old guy. He's one of those people who, given the right hairstyle and the right set of clothes, could instantly transform from wallflower nerd to rock-star hipster. He tells us he's in the middle of a recurring dream, but somehow, it's different this time. CUE DREAM SEQUENCE: Craig bikes up to the Brooklyn Bridge and then scales a girder, making his way towards the icy water below. Just as he's about to jump, his mom, dad, and genius younger sister materialize and start in on a king-sized guilt trip. It clicks that his suicide will invariably destroy his family. Just as he's about to relent, his foot slips, and down goes Craig...
In real life, it's early Sunday morning. Craig bikes up to the local hospital and tells the distracted front desk nurse, "I want to kill myself." The nurse breaks from her gossipy phone call long enough to hand him a clipboard and say, "Fill this out."
While Craig's waiting to see a doctor, a dude in hospital scrubs and a lab coat sits down next to him. They have a surreal exchange, and the scrubs dude disappears. Then a real doctor examines Craig, who describes his occasional nervous vomiting, his fear of not being accepted to a prestigious summer program, his unrequited lust for his best friend's girlfriend, his jealousy about his best friend's seeming perfection/immunity to sadness, his general feeling of inadequacy, and his inability to cope with life. He's sincerely afraid "might do something." The sympathetic doctor wisely admits young Craig, who's whisked off to the psych ward by Smitty. (As a quick aside, can someone dip Jeremy Davies in benzoyl peroxide, wash his hair with real shampoo, and take that scoot-doot-ska-doo hat back to the wardrobe shop before he looks even more like Chester the Molester? Everyone in the audience thanks you.)
Smitty suggests that Bobby, a fellow resident, give Craig the grand tour. Craig recognizes Bobby as the weird scrubs dude from earlier, and although there's some awkwardness, Bobby kindly takes Craig under his wing. Bobby escorts Craig to his room, where Craig meets his new roommate, Muqtada, an Egyptian depressive who rarely leaves his room or speaks. And Craig wigs. Seriously wigs. This is all too much—the silent roommate, the scary people, the big-deal-ness of it all. He asks to be sent home, but the kindly head Dr. Shrink Lady tells him he'll get used to it. Anyway, since he's been checked in, he'll be there for a minimum of five days.
Realizing that he's stuck, Craig gets in the swing of the daily routine. Bobby invites him to sit with "the men" in the cafeteria, but Craig's sad attempt to eat only causes him to barf. And who should see his digestive fireworks but the beautiful, equally messed-up Noelle, who's sitting across the table from him. Craig retreats in embarrassment, but instead of running out of the cafeteria, Noelle just sort of giggles.
Next comes group therapy, in which Bobby admits that he's nervous about his upcoming interview for a group home; more specifically, he has nothing to wear, and his current sweater "smells like a hobo's Band-Aid." Craig offers to loan Bobby one of his dad's top-notch button-down shirts, and Bobby accepts. Noelle's touched by the whole thing and, possibility of puking aside, tells Craig to meet her for a round or two of the "question game," which is really just an excuse for them to talk to each other without actually having to undergo the awkwardness of talking to each other. After some adorably flirty back-and-forth, they race to arts and crafts, where Craig reveals his amazing, long-dormant talent for drawing and painting. And seriously—his paintings are beautiful. They're these intricate maps of imaginary places, and they're unusual and interesting and quirky. Noelle's all, "Nice work, Picasso," and for the first time, Craig doesn't look like he's going to lose his lunch. In fact, he looks kind of happy. [PREDICTION: a) Craig's going to be an artist, and b) Craig and Noelle are totally going to touch tongues.]
Little by little, we learn about the other characters who wander the halls. The Professor thinks The Government is bugging her phones, Johnny thinks he's a ladies man, Jimmy is a phrase-shouting schizophrenic, Solomon is a former member of a group LSD-loving Hasidim, and Bobby? Bobby's also suicidal. And generally unable to deal with life. Add 30 years, 100 pounds of gut and 30 pounds of beard, and he's the spitting image of Craig. No wonder they resonate with each other.
Early one morning, Bobby and Craig doll up in doctor's gear, roam the halls, and play basketball. Bobby sweetly coaches Craig through a mock session of asking Noelle out, and they quietly return to their rooms, both somewhat giddy about their out-of-ward experience. And then everything kind of comes tumbling down. Bobby messes up his group home interview. Nia, the girl Craig was obsessing about, makes an impromptu visit, and tries to get it on with Craig. This results in nervous vomiting and serious heat from Noelle. But Craig does his best to apologize, and now, instead of letting the situation stress him out, he handles it in a better way. He talks about it with kindly head Dr. Shrink Lady, he apologizes, and he draws Noelle a thoughtful, heartfelt picture. She eventually relents, and they head off to music appreciation together. And since Craig is new to the schedule and doesn't have an instrument to play, he's assigned lead vocals. What song do they sing? Suddenly, we're in the middle of a full-on glam music video for "Under Pressure," where Craig is dressed in Freddy Mercury finery and Bobby, who's subbing in for David Bowie, trades off with him for lead vocals. Everyone in the ward is decked out like rock stars—all feather boas and glitter and velour jumpsuits—and as the song finishes, we're right back in the ward rec room with Craig staring expectantly at the audience of fellow patients. A long beat goes by, and the crowd goes wild.
Now that Craig has Noelle on his side (and even has the chance to play the "let's dress up like doctors" game with her), hears that Bobby didn't actually mess up the interview after all, and decides to ditch the anxiety-inducing summer program, there's just one thing left to take care of: his own mental health. In his final meeting with kindly head Dr. Shrink Lady, Craig feels a lot better. He's rediscovered a great coping mechanism (i.e. his art), and he's actually hopeful again. It's been five days, so it's time for him to go home, but there's just one more one more thing for him to do. With a little help from his newly-reconnected best friend, Craig procures a special record, and during a ward-wide pizza party, Craig commandeers the turntables. Suddenly, the halls flood with the sound of Egyptian music, and Muqtada, who's slowly been warming up to society, shuffles out into the main room to join in the dancing. And with that, Craig bids the psych ward farewell, and returns to his life with the newfound ability to enjoy it.
Did you see It's Kind of a Funny Story? Do you plan to?
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