Saturday, October 9, 2010

It's Kind of a Funny Story and Case 39

It has been kind of a crazy movie week for the Reel Rhino.  I went for 9 days without a flick, from Sunday Sept. 26th through Tues Oct. 5th...this was my longest movie drought of the year so far...on Tuesday morning, I had the shakes from withdrawal.

On Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to get to escort a group from the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (MAFS) to the AMC Mainstreet for MAFS Movie Night.  The film we chose was The Town and we went to the AMC Mainstreet to see it.  As a part of the evening, we took a tour of the facility, which of course was fascinating due to historic nature of the Mainstreet Theater, but I think I will save that for another Blog day all of its own.

THE TOWN was a 5 of 5 horn movie and it was the second time I had seen it.  Also, of all the movies I could have seen for today's review, if the time had been right, I would have done THE SOCIAL NETWORK.  I still plan on doing it this week as I am a big Aaron Sorkin and AND David Fincher fan...these two together, must really be great!


Written for the screen and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, this is part teen emo-dramedy, part straight-adult-themed-drama.  It is based on 2006 novel of the same name, by Ted Vizzini.  The film is set in the adult psychiatric ward of a New York hospital where our young lead Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist, checks himself in for help after he decides he wants to kill himself.

This plays out in a way as a coming of age story, but in that regard, I do not think it succeeds.  Somehow, even though I feel like I shouldn't like this movie, I do.  I liked it a lot.  It was exactly the movie I needed to see at exactly the moment I saw it.

Going to the movies is more than just: "what's playing?"  It is important to go and see movies that match your mindset.  We were at the end of 2 crazy weeks, I was feeling a bit bonkers, and a movie about the psych ward was just about perfect for me..

Once Craig gets committed, even though it was at his request, he quickly realizes that his life wasn't that bad and that perhaps he has made a grave error.  Craig makes fast friends with Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis.  He meets the self-destructive Noelle, played by Emma Roberts, who he quickly takes a fancy for and stakes as the target of his romantic endeavors. 

This film is loaded with actors with plenty of indie film cred...Jeremy Davies as one of the hospital staff, Viola Davis as Craig's Doctor on the inside, as well as Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, and others.

Boden and Fleck, who previously wrote and directed SUGAR and HALF NELSON, have a knack for churning out films best described as indie darlings.  I think that as filmmakers, we will be seeing and enjoying much from this writing/directing pair.   

As for FUNNY STORY, this film is a very sweet story, but truly, almost to a fault.  Our lead, Craig is depressed and he checks himself in to what very well may be the most Utopian adult psychiatric center in the world, let alone New York. 

Here is where I will make a distinction for this film.  This is by no means an accurate portrayal of the state of conditions in a psychiatric center.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that most people who see this will be angered by the skewed perspective of these facilities. 

So then, if not accurate, then what is this movie?  It is a fun, cute, hip story that has some great stars and was very fun to watch, including a great musical number that really struck me as touching.

I felt my personal strongest draw to Bobby.  An over-stressed, suicidal patient whose goal throughout the film is to make it into a group home so he would gain visitation rights with his daughter.  I felt his pain and while I didn't relate to his sense of hopelessness, I could see that all he wanted to do was be a good father.  While I liked the teeny-bopper love story, it didn't resonate with me the way that Bobby's adult problems affected him.  And also, Zach Galifianakis may be the greatest American actor of this generation (yes, I am exaggerating a bit, but I really like him).

Think about "serious" Will Ferrell (see also: STRANGER THAN FICTION, WINTER PASSING, and MELINDA AND MELINDA).  Ferrell waited until he he pretty much expended his comedy range.  He covered so many topics, drama-ish type roles is the logical move for him. 

Zach Galifianakis is more-fortunate than Will Ferrell in two ways:

1) His breakout hit (THE HANGOVER) brought him into the spotlight on a bit more of a meteoric rise than Ferrell had to fight for across the span of SNL and into smaller movie roles.

2) He has tapped into his dramatic side a bit earlier than Ferrell did, which I think will keep him more fresh in each role, as we the audience, won't be beaten into the ground with Galifiankis wackiness.

Galifianakis is talented, funny, can play things serious or play them hilarious...or play them serious which turns out hilarious.  He stands near the top of my favorites of the moment.  If you get a chance to see him do stand up, jump on it.  He is the lone wolf...he is the wolf pack...he is a gem of American cinema of the moment and hopefully into the future.

Wow, that was quite a sidetrack, but Galifianakis is worth it.

This movie had some real high points.  I was at the end of a two week stretch from hell...little sleep, lots to do...I think I was a bit more emotional than usual and perhaps related on a more emotional level.  The film was a bit too sweet, but it still worked.  This was a mental institution wrapped in a red bow with frilly edges.  This was by no means anything resembling real life, but it was a funny, touching story than in my opinion shows creativity in film making interlacing the songs, the art, and the flashbacks into a movie that plays as hip and fresh. 

Also, on another note, Emma Roberts is cute as a button, and I think I have enjoyed everything she has been in...she is a chip off the old block, with her poppa being Eric Roberts and her auntie being Julia Roberts.

Craig acts as the films narrator which at first I thought was annoying, but I guess it grew on me.  This is intended to be his coming of age story, but really it is just a good story.  In my opinion, the coming of age romance drama is much stronger in ADVENTURELAND, Greg Mottola's 2009 film.  The filmic presentation of young adult angst was much more successfully there, but perhaps it was set in a time (and the state) in which the REEL RHINO was experiencing his coming of age and undergoing teen angst.

I give IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY a 4 of 5 horn rating...I really liked it, but perhaps not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.  Give it a try, it is entertaining at the very least.  I have embedded the trailer at the bottom of the site.  Check it out.  I will tell you that I loved the trailer.  Perhaps it was the music, which was provided for the film by Broken Social Scene, but I originally feared that this would be a case where the trailer would be far better than the actual movie.  That is not the case, but this trailer is well cut and definitely shows this flick in the most favorable manner possible.   


I don't have much to say about this flick, except that it is actually watchable.  The film barely succeeds, but it does, as a stab at horror and thrills.  The downside is that the story is not excessively original or exciting, but the direction is decent and there is a sense of style and watch-ability to this movie as it was shot.  

Renee Zellweger plays Emily Jenkins, an overloaded case worker who gets into trouble with guessed it, 39th Case!  She goes to look in on little Lily, who is living in a troubled household, but it is really unclear to what is going on.  Emily, along with her detective friend, played by Ian McShane, kick in the place and rescue Lily, and get Lily's parents arrested.  Lucky for us, Emily's boyfriend is a child psychologist, played by Bradley Cooper.  Also, Cooper ends up with his shirt off, for all my lady readers who were wondering.  

After her parents are arrested, Lily is set to go into a group home.  Emily is worried that Lily has already been hurt too much and she takes Lily in.  Shenanigans ensue and people start to die.

Lily plays the creepy little girl role in excellent fashion, but she doesn't hold a candle to the creepy little girl role presented in ORPHAN, which was received about the same as this flick by other critics, but that I hold as a superior movie.  Orphan was a better movie and it actually had a decent twist. 

The most interesting part of Case 39 is not the movie, it is more the fact that this movie was filmed in 2006 and slated for a 2008 release.  It got stuck in distribution hell and sat for over two years awaiting release.  This is not director Christian Alvert's first movie.  He also released Pandorum, last year, which I think is a much stronger movie.  Case 39 was made two full years before Pandorum.  Hopefully the vast superiority of Pandorum over Case 39 will show up as further improvement in Alvert's next flick.

See it at home, there is nothing at all to be gained from seeing CASE 39 in the theater.  3 of 5 horns...perhaps even more towards a 2.5...nothing special.  You will be fine watching this at home, and just as good missing it all together.  One of the benefits of checking this out is seeing Bradley Cooper in the early days of his acting when he was just becoming Bradley Cooper.

More from the Reel Rhino soon...
...till then, take care!

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