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.
Gilchrist pedals to sanity?
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Oct. 8. Rated PG-13. 101 minutes.