It's Kind of a Funny Story
As with many things in life, it is hard to do the simple things well. Films are no different. Think of how many films follow the conventional romantic-comedy mould and still manage to fail. How many westerns or horror films contain the same information and basically rehash the same characters and situations. That is why a simple film, when successful, should be praised.
Filmmaking duo, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, have achieved such success with this film. You are bound to hear pop taglines associated with the film - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for 16-year-olds, The Breakfast Club in a detention centre. Emo, Interrupted. And all of them are valid. This is not an original piece. However, the film is genuine. The characters are real and well rendered. Their emotions draw empathy from the audience. Helped by a strong cast from little seen lead Keir Gilchrist to man of the moment Zach Galifianakis right down to small supporting roles from Jeremy Davies (Spanking the Monkey) and Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go). All characters and actors add flavour to the film and aid the filmmakers in telling the story.
As well as the triumphs of the script, Boden and Fleck must be commended for nailing the tone. Their previous films, Half Nelson and Sugar have been tough going dramas sprinkled with flakes of comedy. However this film plays in the opposite direction. Some tough subjects are dealt with through comedy and it is clear the filmmakers are having fun doing so. They allow themselves some technical flourishes, well achieved by DoP Andrij Parekh and production designer Beth Mickle (see the Under Pressure sequence).
It is unlikely that this film will be anybody's favourite film of the year. However, it would please me to no end to see it popping up on the outskirts of critics and audience's top 10s.