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“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” Reviewed

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” Reviewed (photo)

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Writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are victims of their own success. Their new film, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” is getting the worst reviews of their career. As I write this, it’s currently hovering around 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, thirty points lower anything else they’ve made. I suspect that has less to do with the quality of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” than its relationship to their previous films, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar.” Those films were designed to defy conventions, while this one is designed to conform to them. By comparison, I would agree that “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is an inferior film: it is not as bold or original as Fleck and Boden’s others. But it is clearly not intended to be. It’s based on a young adult novel and it feels like a “young adult movie,” if such a thing exists. It tells a teenage story for a teenage audience and like a lot of teenagers it’s bound to be misunderstood by a lot of adults.

What adult could relate to the problems of Craig, the film’s protagonist? Played by Keir Gilchrist, he is a whiny, self-centered mope. Despite his comfortable and supportive home, despite having two parents and seemingly all the opportunities in the world available to him, he is depressed. Considering suicide, he walks into the emergency room of a New York City hospital and announces “I want to kill myself.” The clerk is nonplussed. “Fill this out,” is the response. This was not the reaction Craig anticipated. Neither is the result: since the hospital’s teen wing is under renovation, he’s placed in the adult psych ward, amongst people like Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a Craig on the other side of middle age with a strange sense of humor.

Watching Craig, it becomes apparent that his troubles aren’t nearly as serious as his new neighbors, who face crippling social anxiety or schizophrenia or self-mutilating urges. He’s just a horny, lonely, misunderstood kid feeling pressured to get into the right school and find a girlfriend. To an adult, these problems seem trivial and hardly worthy of an entire film. To a teenager, these problems are the biggest problems in the entire world and not only are they worthy of a film, they’re worthy of thirty films and a hundred books, and a thousand Facebook wall posts.

Boden and Fleck do bow to cliché more often than they should; they’re smart enough to know that no film under any circumstance should include a scene where a guy tells a girl he loves her at the exact moment another girl he likes walks in the room, then runs away in tears. And they’re a bit too quick to laugh at the illnesses of the other hospital patients. But they understand the teenage psyche in ways a lot of mainstream films geared toward that age bracket do not. They treat teens’ petty obsessions like the world-ending crises they feel like at the time, but they don’t shy away from the fact that Craig needs to grow up either. They also get uniformly excellent performances out of a cast that includes Jim Gaffigan and Lauren Graham as Craig’s parents, Zoë Kravitz as Craig’s longtime crush, Viola Davis as a sensitive psychiatrist, Emma Roberts as a cutter locked up with Craig, and Galifianakis who, all things considered, played much crazier characters in “The Hangover” and “Dinner For Schmucks.”

We shouldn’t let directors off the hook when they fail, but we also shouldn’t hold them to a standard higher than they held themselves to. The adult in me got weary of Craig’s complaints pretty fast, but the part of me that remembers what it was like to be that age got it. I’m pretty sure if I’d seen this movie when I was 17, I would have loved it. Critics bashing it for not living up to Boden and Fleck’s past movies sound like tyrannical parents who are way too hard on their kids when they bring home an A- instead of an A on a really tough test.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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