It’s Kind of a Funny Story: Zach Galifianakis Becomes the Sad Clown

Seemingly designed to get every New York City honors student face-punched at college, this film chronicles a privileged Brooklyn high-schooler’s super-cool institutionalized mental-health break. Hot for his best friend’s girlfriend, stressed out over an application to a prestigious summer school, and audaciously neglectful of his Zoloft, 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) commits himself to a psych ward after tepid fantasies of jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge start warming. With this Young Adult riff on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck at first glance seem far afield from the sociorealism of their previous features, Half Nelson and Sugar. But rather than remaining a humorous departure from self-seriousness, Funny Story doubles down, uniting broad comedy with leaden sloganeering for a super-sincere, tonally awry amusement tour of post-9/11 despair. We meet an eclectic community of colorful New Yorkers mentally challenged by modern living, from a Patriot Act paranoid to Craig’s in-house father figure (Zach Galifianakis, taking his first step toward sad-clown legitimacy), who’s caught in a cycle of unemployment, poverty, and rage. Meanwhile, our hero’s stay in the nuthouse boosts his ego and affirms his entitlement, and in five short days, he learns that he’s a master illustrator and a natural singer. “I used to think art was just bourgeois decadence,” a wiser Craig says in the end, which is funny, because that’s kind of what this film is.