Cast & Crew
Director : Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Producer : Ben Browning, Kevin Misher
Screenwriter : Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
While this comedy is an intriguing exploration of mental illness, the title is perhaps too accurate: it’s only kind of funny. But even though the film is somewhat mopey, it’s also packed with great moments.
Craig (Gilchrist) is a 17-year-old overwhelmed by thoughts of suicide. So one night he heads to the emergency room for help, then talks the doctor into admitting him for observation. He’s a bit shocked that he’ll be there for at least five days, but quickly becomes friends with Bobby (Galifianakis) and Noelle (Roberts). His parents (Graham and Gaffigan) are supportive, and his doctors (Davis and Davies) help him work through his issues. But the biggest challenge is to sort out his feelings for Nia (Kravitz), the girlfriend of his best pal (Mann).
The plot is rather serious, but the filmmakers play it for laughs, and for the most part the humour adds a natural earthiness to the dialog and interaction.
It’s all very low-key in that sense, and nothing very momentous happens, but there are small epiphanies and thoughtful scenes along the way. And the actors give relaxed, engaging performances that nicely avoid most mental hospital movie cliches.
The film throws us off balance from the start with Craig’s postmodern narration, as he continually talks about what’s happening on screen as if we’re watching some sort of YouTube doc in his head. This allows the film to drift into a few random fantasy sequences that are colourful and fun but add little to the story. And this approach also allows the filmmakers to get very sentimental in the final act.
Strangely, all of the visual wackiness actually makes the central plot feel a little dull. We wish the whole hospital ward were actually performing a glammed-up rendition of the Bowie-Queen classic Under Pressure, but we only see the outrageous fantasy version rather than real life, which would no doubt have been intriguingly moving. This makes it very difficult for us to identify with Craig’s journey. And in the end the film feels a bit too warm and tidy, like a less provocative version of Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).