04 September 2011

It's Kind of a Really Good Movie




Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality
Open your eyes, Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go, Little high, little
low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to
me, to
me
- From Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen


You trying to tell me that those people in suits I ride into San Francisco with every day, the ones who walk into tall buildings and ride elevators and sit at desks all day and go to meetings and check emails and wolf down lunches and talk on the phone and write memos and attend more meetings and then go back to their suburban homes to eat plastic meals and watch TV that those people are the sane ones?

Do you further mean to tell me that the people who plan wars that result in death and maiming and mental anguish and widows and orphans and cost billions of dollars that those people are sane too?

And you expect me to believe that those men who run for president and say things like creationism is as valid as evolution and that two people who love each other should be barred from marrying because they are of the same gender and that corporations should decide for themselves if they want to pollute our air and water that those people are sane?

I see people sitting on street corners in ragged smelly clothes without a penny to their name and they mumble things I can't understand nor could most people but those are the crazy ones.

Sanity is subjective.

Totally.

Yeah there can be kind of a glamour to "mental problems" especially among the young. You know that whole suicide is romantic bullsh*t. And then the vibe about drugs to treat depression and other "ISSUES" that can be some craziness that serves to line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. But, dig, anyone who hasn't had to "see someone" about their stresses or fears or anxieties is someone I don't trust. If you've had it all under control you're whole life you haven't been paying attention. Seriously man all you've got to do is to take a peak into your psyche and it will totally freak you out. But then if you're lucky they'll be some really bodacious clarity to groove on and that's a good thing. Damn good. Plus if you have the slightest awareness of what goes on all over this planet you'll have a deuce of a time holding onto your wigs and keys. It's crazy out there, man and to deal with it with any kind of awareness will stir some demons within or your just mentally dead. So says I.

But if you want to pretend your fine...go ahead. That insistence on sanity will ultimately drive you bat sh*t crazy. No lie.

So I was really taken by this film It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010) because it's set in the psychiatric wing of a hospital. Our young hero Craig (Keir Gilchrist) gets his 16 year old self admitted because he's self aware enough to be suicidal. He's got all this dad imposed pressure and societal pressure and the worst kind too -- self imposed. Gotta stay ahead of the pack, got to be able to get in to a "good college" set yourself up from there for the good job, the good life, the nice memorial service. That's some more crazy thinking but you do know that it locks up a lot of young minds. Oh not incidentally he's at that age where (s-e-x) becomes molto importante. And check this out: his crush (Zoe Kravitz, bet you've heard of her mom and dad) is his best friend's girl. Ouch. That whole dating and romance and losing virginity deal is another mind f*ck. Like anyone needs another when they are in high school. Or anywhere else in life.

There are characters on this ward like Bobby who is played by Zach Galifianakis whose name is even harder to spell than say. Like a lot of people who started in comedy, Zach G is a very good actor who has channeled the genius of his comedy into drama (though the guy he plays gives us a lot of winks and giggles). Many of Craig's other fellow patients are further out of touch with reality. It's really cool and quite healthy to stray as far as is safe from reality but if you're gone to long or wander too far it can be hard getting back. That's why some LSD users are no good to anyone anymore.

We know that Craig is a bit of all right because none of these people freak him out. He doesn't condescend and you know "sympathize with their plight." No. Craig accepts them at face value. Good on ya, son.

There is boy meets girl element in the story but at least its set in a mental ward. The girl is Naomi (Emma Roberts) who reminds me of so many troubled teens I've seen and known. But the kind who you know are going to sort it out. I was frankly worried about the cute girl element of the story but Ms. Roberts pulled it off nicely. Scars help, man.

At first Craig does kind of freak and want out but once he's told he must stay the minimum five days he goes with the flow. (There's a trip, deciding when to hop aboard the flow and ride and when to book.)

The movie was co-directed and co-written by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Had I realized this sooner I'd have seen the movie much sooner, like in theaters, because I'm a fan of two previous films of theirs' Half Nelson (2006) and Sugar (2008). They did a nice job here because they respected the characters and while there are a few yuks they didn't play it for laughs. This is not a comedy, not a love story -- no schmaltz. It's a very honest coming of age story. One helluva lot of people come of age through dances with insanity and perhaps more should.

It's the kind of a story that could have made for a "charming" movie. That would have been okay but there are enough already of the charming, empty films. There is a basic honesty in the film and how it explores the utter madness of living in a world where the legally sane are so damn nuts. We don't see some of the real consequences and behaviors of the supposedly insane but that's not what the movie was trying to do.

Finally It's Kind of about choices. How crazy it is to deny ourselves them. March in lockstep in a direction long ago mapped out. Not exploring, not risk tasking but following the herd. This is what leads to real madness. That's what happened to Craig. He realized that his own inexorable march to oblivion in a world where wars rage continuously and the economy is in tatters is not something he's happy with. Gotta make change, bro.

So maybe it'll work out for him. it's a step and that it's an important thing in life. To take steps. To not is crazy.

1 comment:

William Goodchild said...

Sadly, it didn't even get a theatrical release here in the UK. I was lucky enough to catch it at the London Film Festival (whose inclusion I see is an instant stamp of quality). A somewhat nervy Ryan Fleck was in attendance to answer our questions. Either he's uncomfortable with public speaking or was anxious about the success of the film (understandable given the jump in size between this and the brilliant but more modestly-budgeted, Sugar).