This is a story of a 16-year-old boy in New York City who checks himself in to a psychiatric ward. He is worried and anxious about his life, including the prestigious school he attends, his overbearing father, and his crush on his best friend’s girlfriend. Within the ward, he meets a cast of characters, including Zach Galifianakis, a fellow patient named Bobby.
If you have ever seen a teenage angsty movie, you will see the ending to this 20 minutes in to the movie. It’s very predictable, which is sad because it holds back a solid cast of characters. Galifianakis does a surprisingly good job portraying a character with actual depth – rather than the blithering idiot he played in the Hangover. Keir Gilchrist plays the main character (Craig) well; I felt more of an attachment to him than I ever have to Michael Cera, the king of angsty-teenage roles.
The movie will resonate with a lot of late teens/early 20-somethings out there. It certainly did with me. I am experiencing/experienced a lot of what Craig feels in this movie, perhaps on a slightly less extreme scale. And it bothered me how predictable it was – he gets the girl, he feels rejuvenated, he sees the good in life. That’s not how it works. You can’t solve your problems in a 5-day-stay at a mental hospital.
Another aspect I didn’t enjoy was the main character’s development. He describes himself in the beginning as the one bland student in a school full of over-achievers. However, once in the psych ward, you discover that he is seemingly a savant of an artist when he wows his fellow patients with his ‘brain drawings.’ Then, when forced to sing during musical therapy, he rocks the house. That doesn’t sound very bland at all. I understand that the message is that everyone has talents, and you can’t compare yourself to everyone else in a school for the gifted, but it seemed like the easy way out. I wish the director/writer had taken some courage and made him an awful singer. Make him completely bomb. Have the girl he likes watch as he fails. Have the other patients see him make a fool of himself. Instead of making the character realize he does have these ‘mainstream’ talents, why not make him realize that despite not having these talents, or having completely different ones, he still has reasons worth living. Don’t make him an ugly duckling that turns in to a swan, make him turn in to a duckling that’s okay with being a duckling.
I enjoyed it, but I felt like it could’ve done more. It could have tackled some deeper issues of teenage anxiety, of not being accepted, of feeling out of control. And it could have done that without losing the sweetness that makes the movie.