Some films just have characters I want to keep watching. The perfect example of this is Zombieland. That film is brilliant and I found it funny and entertaining to such a degree that I wanted to see much more of it immediately after it ended. It was a show with a premise that could easily transfer into a series (even if that series is animated) because the environment is great, the story itself is rich with ideas but best of all, the characters are so watchable.
They’re characters that I want to see struggle, achieve and banter with each other every week, not every two or three years when they are all free to make another film (or not, as the case seems to be.) The same could be said for It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
The key to what makes this film work is the characters. They are very watchable, extremely likable and work so well against and with each other. They are a great diverse range of characters that there is a lot of mileage out of the different stories you could tell with them and it was the same as Zombieland (as weird as that may seem) that I wanted to see more of these characters after the film had ended.
The film is told through the eyes of teenager Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist. He does a great job of holding the film together, especially because it’s about suicide, mental illness and being, or at least feeling, separate from society. That’s what makes the film so watchable, it’s a look at mental illness but without any scary overlord like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or hovering feeling of dread like Girl, Interrupted.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t touch on some difficult themes or subjects. The character that gets to do most of the heavy lifting emotionally but also ends up being the most entertaining is Zach Galifianakis as Bobby. His introduction to Craig is played fantastically and its a testament to Galifianakis that he doesn’t have to resort to the more crazy or silly character we have seen him play so well in the Hangover films.
Here, Galifianakis gets to be a lot more subdued. He is funny, adding most of the humour to the film, but not in a way that over-does it or trivialises the mental condition his character is suffering from, something he plays through brilliantly.
He is just one of the reasons, and characters, that makes me believe that there is potential in a tv show set in around this mental health hospital, told through the eyes of a character like Craig. The film manages to include a lot of great story strands that could be developed and played through in a weekly series. There is a love interest, both inside and outside the hospital for Craig. A character who struggles to leave his bedroom and Bobby’s attempts to get back into the wider world could be explored further. As well as Craig trying to get to terms with why he voluntarily placed himself into the hospital in the first place.
It even has aspects that work best in tv shows. Whatever you thought about the tv show Scrubs, some of the best jokes were the fantasy sequences that Zach Braff’s character had and there is potential for that here, with a particularly cool scene where Craig sings Under Pressure being a perfect example.
As good as It’s Kind of a Funny Story is, it could be expanded. The story feels like it comes to a conclusion too soon when there is a lot of untapped potential that is demonstrated in the movie’s 100 minutes run time.
Overall, great performances, amazing characters and a very well told story make It’s Kind of a Funny Story well worth a watch. It does feel like there is much more storytelling to be done though which is why I’m adding this film to my list, alongside Zombieland, for a movies that should spawn a tv series.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)