It’s Kind of a Funny Story Movie Review

47980728Movies about depression are always iffy for me. A lot of the time, I either find them too optimistic or I find them too dramatic. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them. That’s why I was a little hesitant to begin It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Basically, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (IKoaFS), is about high school teenager Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psych ward due to his fear of him committing suicide. However, the teen ward is closed for renovations, so he is instead admitted to the adult psych ward. In the adult psych ward, he meets with a number of people and forms bonds with them. There’s his mentor, dealing with his own problems, Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis), the nice and pretty Noelle who struggles with self-harm (played by Emma Roberts), his bed-ridden roommate Muqtata (played by Bernard White), and his psychiatrist Dr. Minerva (played by Viola Davis). Craig stays in the ward for about a week and the film deals with his life. Although, the supporting characters do get some great work to do, particularly Bobby.

What I liked about the film, was how relatable Craig was. Craig was an incredibly anxious, stressed out, depressed and suicidal teenager. He felt like an outsider among his peers, his friends, and even with his family. The pressure of performing well in school, of thinking of about his future in terms of academics, or even asking out a girl, all seemed to mount on him, until he had difficulty coping. Although I’m not a teenager anymore, I could definitely relate to Craig. In fact, a couple of times, I had to do a double take because some of the things he said/ thought actually reminded me of when I was still in school. He feels like an incredibly realistic character.

I also really enjoyed the take on depression this movie had. Although Craig’s story-line left a lot to be desired, I liked how it was contrasted with others. Craig’s storyline actually slightly related to one of my annoyances about movies about depression. Craig stayed in the psychiatric ward for a total of five days and left the facility feeling happier and less depressed than before. According to his final voiceover, it taught him a lot about his life, about the things he had that he could look forward too. While it’s a good message, I also felt that it was a tad too optimistic. I wish the movie had maybe pointed out how his meds were also a reason why he felt better (it was implied slightly), rather than him just learning to be appreciative for the things he had in life.

That said, the other takes on depression in this film were fantastic. One of them was Craig’s roommate Muqtata. Although we weren’t ever given a backstory for Muqtata, he spent most of his time at the facility in bed. He was too depressed to even get out of bed. He did attempt to walk out of his room, once or twice. However, he’d always lose his nerve and go back to bed. It was only through Craig’s interference (he brought music that Muqtata liked), that Muqtata finally found something to get him out of his bed/ room. I thought it was nice of the writers to show how depression effects people differently. In Craig’s case, it manifested as anxiety and eventually evolved to fuel his suicidal tendencies. With Muqtata, on the other hand, it manifested as a debilitating melancholy that made it difficult for him to even get out of bed.

The other take on depression, was Craig’s mentor, Bobby. Like Muqtata, we weren’t given a backstory for Bobby. However, we did see the effect Bobby’s depression had on his family, the depth of his depression, and his struggle to get better. In fact, I think Bobby’s story was actually the most emotional of them all (it probably also helps that Zach Galifianakis acted really well). Despite Bobby’s easygoing demeanour and his attempts to help Craig with his depression, Bobby himself suffered keenly from depression; having attempted to commit suicide six times before. We were also shown the struggles Bobby went through, with finding housing after his release from the facility, with finding a job to support himself, and with his wife’s constant belittling of him and attempts at eliminating his daughter’s relationship with him. It’s an incredibly depressing, but also realistic look at the way depression can really seem to take over your life. It’s not just about dealing with it in facilities, it also affects your everyday life. Plus, it doesn’t always end with a happy ending. In one of my favourite moments, during Craig’s last night at the facility, he throws a pizza party for everyone. Bobby refrains from participating, despite the fact that he is also being released the next day. The audience is shown that Bobby was unsuccessful in landing a job and securing housing. Although it isn’t necessarily spelled out or even explicit, the next morning, when Craig asks for Bobby (just to see him one last time), it’s implied that Bobby killed himself. Although it’s incredibly sad, the movie handles it really well, just hinting at it and showing how depression isn’t just a simple issue; its complex.

On that note, the movie does have some unlikeable elements. There’s this semi-love-triangle thing that happens between Craig, Noelle, and Craig’s former crush, Nia. Although thankfully this story-line isn’t stretched too far, I also felt it was sort of unnecessary? I just wasn’t a fan and didn’t see its need. I’e already mentioned how I didn’t like how the movie was seemingly so optimistic towards depression recovery. It only hints at struggles (through Bobby for example) rather than providing an in depth look at them. I also thought it was a little odd how Craig seemed to be so incredibly talented at drawing and singing when he claimed to not be. It wasn’t bad per se, but just odd. Actually, while talking about that, I liked the animations in the movie when depicting Craig’s maps. I thought they were cool.

Anyways, moving onto the acting. If it’s not clear, the acting was pretty good across the board. All the actors were believable. I’d say a special mention probably goes to Zach Galifianakis, just because of how great his Bobby was. But then again, he is a good actor; it just gets hard to remember that because of how many comedies he chooses to do. Also, I think props also go to Keir Gilchrist who makes Craig so relatable. I haven’t really seen him in other things before, but he was really good in the movie and managed to carry most of it on his shoulders. Similarly, directing was great as well. Also, this is probably not the best place to mention it (my bad in not planning out this review better), but this movie was actually based upon the book of the same name, written by Ned Vizzini, who actually spent a few days in a psychiatric facility. So it’s actually semi-autobiographical I believe. Unfortunately, Ned died in 2013 after his own intense battle with depression.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light but good look at the way depression can manifest itself differently in people, but don’t expect to be blown away.

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Quote of the Week

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. Although it has not quite turned out to be everything I imagined it would be, it’s still pretty cool and I’m still quite proud of myself. I’m also pretty thankful to all of those who read my posts, commented on them, or even followed me. Y’all are awesome.

In order to mark the one year anniversary, I’ve decided to share one of my favourite quotes on this blog. I hope it brightens your life as it has mine.

So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”    — Jorge Luis Borges

Suddenly Seventeen Movie Review

suddenly-seventeen_poster_goldposter_com_17.jpg@0o_0l_800w_80qWatching this movie was one of the most spur-of-the-moment decisions I have ever made. Literally, I discovered this movie around 1pm while browsing youtube, and come 3pm, I was already watching it. On youtube, it’s titled 17 Again, while google claims that its title is Suddenly Seventeen. I’m gonna go with google on this one and use the title Suddenly Seventeen my review. As the youtube name and general title suggest, this movie involves the main character going back in time to when they were seventeen. It’s actually pretty similar to the American 17 Again movie. But personally, I much enjoyed this take on that trope, rather than the American version.

Instead of writing out a huge summary post (which I actually did LOL and then deleted), I’m going to write a smaller summary and focus on what I specifically liked about this movie. The whole large summary thing, while fun to write and read, take up a lot of space. Space that I believe I could use to actually review things, as this is a blog about reviews.

So anyways, the basic gist of the story-line is this: When she was 18, art student Liang, played by Ni Ni was proposed by Mao, played by Wallace Huo, to be his girlfriend. She accepted and for the next 10 years, she put her career on hold for Mao. Instead of working, she decided to play the role of the perfect wife for Mao. After 10 years, she’d been expecting him to propose, but when he did not, she got sad and ordered some chocolates that promised to bring happiness to peoples relationships. When she decides to take things into her own hand and propose to Mao, he ends up breaking off their relationship. She’s distraught and eats a chocolate, thereby transforming, at least mentally, into 17 year old Liang. 17 year old Liang doesn’t know a thing about 28 year old Liang and the two exist as separate people in the same body. Once a chocolate is eaten, the 17 year old Liang returns for a maximum of 5 hours. Basically,  28 year old Liang “employs” 17 year old Liang to paint things for her, as 28 year Liang was offered a job to paint designs but has forgotten her painting skills. While 17 year old Liang paints for 28 year old Liang, she also goes out and lives her own life, which includes flirting with and almost-dating rebel biker Yan, played by Darren Wang. The rest of the movie deals with Liang coming to terms with herself and the way her life moves forward.

One things I really, really, really enjoyed about this movie, was the character-centred aspect of it. Unlike the American 17 Again, this one focused more on Liang and her relationship with herself. As we see in the movie, 28 year old Liang put her life on the hold for her partner, because it was what she thought he wanted. She let herself go in order to conform to her illusion of what Mao wanted in a wife. Slowly, not only did she pause her career, but she also ended up changing her personality, loosing her spunk and zest to be proper and bland. It was only as she got to know herself, recognize all that she had done in the name of the relationship, and come to terms with herself and her skills/dreams/past/present, that Liang learned to love herself and in the process, reinvent her life. She got a job she loved and finally began becoming the version that she wanted to be, not the version she thought her boyfriend wanted. She realized that her feelings about herself mattered much more than Mao’s feelings about her. There’s a really great scene where Mao apologizes to her for ignoring her throughout their relationship and she tells him that he doesn’t have to apologize; she was at fault too and she finally realized that she didn’t want to stand in the back waiting for him to turn around anymore. She lets go of the relationship and understands that she’s much more than that. It’s an extremely beautiful message and portrayed quite wonderfully as well.

I also really liked how 17 year old Liang was just that, a 17 year old. She wasn’t a perfect character and had flaws, thereby signifying that her 17 year old was not the best version of her. For example,  18 year old Liang ended up putting her dreams on hold to follow Mao and his dreams. And when it came to 17 year old Liang, she was also willing to put her dreams on hold to follow Yan. I just thought it was so smart of the writers to show that. In essence, the 17 year old Liang was not much different from 18 year old Liang. Despite the vast difference between 17 year old Liang and 28 year old Liang, you could totally see how 17 year old Liang would’ve ended up 28 year old Liang. And the way 28 year old Liang handled 17 year old Liang was great too, showing how Liang had indeed matured and come to terms with herself and life.

Similarly, I also quite enjoyed the friendship shown between Liang and Bai, played by Ma Su. It’s so rare to see such positive, fun, female friendships. Bai fully supports Liang and helps her. Although its not anything major, I still quite liked it. Plus, Bai’s scenes were generally hilarious.

Which brings me to the actors. Ma Su was absolutely hilariously good as Bai. She imbued within Bai just the right amount of weirdness and love. It was easy to see how the two were friends. However, the stand out star in this entire movie, has to be Ni Ni. Ni Ni was absolutely phenomenal as both versions of Liang. Her body language, mannerisms, etc. were all so on-point when it came to both versions of Liang. You (or at least I did) literally believed that you were seeing 17 year old Liang and 28 year old Liang. Ni Ni carried the entire movie on her shoulders. Her acting completely elevated the movie I think, as the time travelling trope is old, but Ni Ni’s vigour and acting managed to make it feel fresh.The other actors were good as well, but none shone as brightly and wonderfully as her. The only actor I was a bit iffy about, was Wallace Huo as Mao. Wallace just came across as too stiff and stoic for me. Maybe Mao’s character was written that way or maybe Wallace didn’t have enough material? I don’t know, I just thought he was the weakest link, at least from the main cast.

And coming to the directing, I’m a big iffy on that as well. While there’s definitely quite a few beautifully shot and symbolic scenes, there’s also a few stereotypical shots. Idk. It’s not anything bad and I guess I’m just being nit-picky. Apparently the movie was the directorial debut of Zhang Mo. And I guess for her debut, she did a pretty decent job. Cinamatography was also quite top notch. I’m a fan of lighter, brighter movies and thankfully, this movie fit right into my preference. All in all, a beautifully light movie about the importance of self-love.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a fantastically cute character-focused movie with a nice message!

Quote of the Week

“Have you ever had your computer stop working? It’s agony. It feels like you’re actually withdrawing from drugs. You wander aimlessly around your apartment asking yourself, “Well, what do I do without my computer? Seriously. WHAT DO I DO?” Then things turn #dark and you become a person needing a hit. You’ll text everyone in your phone “Um, can I come over and use your internet?” and some will respond, “Um, sure.” You’ll come over immediately and check your email, Facebook and Twitter and think “Um, is that it? That’s what I’ve been needing a hit of?” Yes. Yes it is.”       —Ryan O’Connell

Snowpiercer Movie Review

snowpiercer-movie-poster-2014-1020770694

I have no clear idea what propelled me to watch this movie. Maybe it was because it fit in the sci-fi genre (ma favvv). Or maybe it was because it had Chris Evans in a very de-glamourized role. Honestly, I have no idea. And after I watched it, I literally questioned myself why I even watched it (?!?). Like what was I thinking?

In a nutshell, the movie focuses on a post apocalyptic world. In an effort to “fix” global warming, scientists end up triggering an ice age. Life on Earth is virtually wiped out. The only people who managed to survive, are aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that continually travels around the Earth (for over 17 years). However, the inhabitants in the train are also divided along class lines. The Elites live near the front of the train, bathing in luxury. For example, on the train, they’re given freshly grown fruit (there’s a literal green house in a train compartment), children are educated, they have extravagant parties, and there’s even a “drug” they are hooked on. All in all, basically living like the elites of today, but just on a train. On the flip side, both literally and metaphorically, are the poor residing in the rear of the train. They are treated quite horribly and only given a small gelatinous protein bars to sustain them. Similarly, their children are not educated and they barely have any access to clean water.

In the beginning of the movie, we’re treated to scenes from the lives of the poor people. Along with being subject to threats, violence, poor food and living conditions, their children are also inspected and occasionally taken away. Chris Evans plays Curtis, one of the poorer people. He’s been receiving covert messages from someone in certain gelatinous bars. Motived by these messages and their general living conditions, Curtis and his mentor, an elderly man named Gillam (portrayed by John Hurt), begin thinking of ways to revolt, to improve their conditions. With the general poor populous, they theorize that if they can get to the front of the train, they can control it and their living conditions. Hence, they set out. What happens next, are bloody, violent, crazy battles through which Curtis and his companions progress. Seriously, it’s pretty insane with people being stabbed, shot at, axed, etc.

At the end of the film, after having to sacrifice many of his close companions, Curtis finally reaches the front of the train and meets its creator, Wilford, played by Ed Harris. Here’s where things get flipped, and Wilford reveals that the entire revolution was actually engineered BY him and Gillam (!!). Wilford explains that the train was originally built with a specific, balanced ecosystem. However, over time, as the populations of the rich and poor increased, the ecosystem went off balance. As the train was the “true eternal,” it was imperative that the ecosystem be maintained. So along with his friend Gillam (Wilford and Gillam were friends), the two conspired to have Curtis and his poor companions revolt. In the ensuing revolt, the plan was that 74% of the poor people would be killed in the carnage, to ensure that the ecosystem would return to balance. Along with balancing the ecosystem, the revolt would also ensure that the poor people still had hope (hope meant that they wouldn’t *all* join the fight so less chance of it being successful) and its violent suppression would keep the system intact through a fear of authority (remember, a lot of people were killed in the revolt).

After revealing all this, Wilford explains that he’s grown old and would like to give Curtis the reigns of the train. In other words, Curtis would become the leader and be responsible for maintaining the ecosystem. Curtis is Wilford’s choice, because as he puts it, Curtis is only one who has seen the entire train, from back to front, and hence actually understands how the train works as a balanced ecosystem. Curtis is distraught after learning this, especially about Gillam’s role in the plot. However, just before Curtis could accept the offer of leadership, it’s reveals that the train uses child labour. As the train had been continuously running for 17 years, some parts had become extinct. In order to ensure that the train continued to run, because it was the only “eternal,” the children of the poor people were used as machine parts. For example, a child was forced to crouch down in small, unsanitary, dangerous, polluted conditions and manually pull out coal from the movie train to ensure that the train didn’t stop. This is the final straw for Curtis, as it turns out that one of the children used as slave labour, is actually the child of one of his friends, a child that he himself adores.  He’s vehemently disgusted, refuses Wilford’s offer, and sacrifices his arm to save the child, Timmy.

That last part is actually really great because it functions as the closing of a circle. As Curtis explained in the film later, the initial conditions for those at the back of the train were so horrible, that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, to his own horror and regret, Curtis participated. He describes how he was about to eat a baby (the baby coincidentally turns out to be his best friend later on L-O-L), when Gillam stopped and sacrificed his arm in lieu of the baby. Gillam’s single act of sacrifice moved everyone in the poor section and changed them. Instead of killing and eating each other, people began sacrificing themselves as food. However, Curtis could not bring himself to sacrifice his arm, no matter how much he tried. Eventually, as the train conditions settled, the poor people were given the gelatinous protein bars to eat, stopping the cannibalism. However, in the end, Curtis does in fact sacrifice his arm to save a child. So like I said, coming a full circle. Really great scene.

Anyways, the movie ends with the entire train exploding and only two people surviving, Curtis not among them. Like I said, pretty crazy movie. But, it would be amiss to assume the craziness to be synonymous with a bad movie as this movie is far from bad. It actually prompts some really great discussions and is peppered with decent script-writing, acting, and directing. I mean, I already mentioned the full-story circle of Curtis himself. However, that’s not the only themes at work in this movie. I read somewhere that the movie was actually an allegory and I’d have to completely agree. For me, one of the biggest themes throughout the movie was the theme of human hubris. In their ego and pride, humans believed they could eradicate global warming. And yet, their arrogance was what led to their downfall and they triggered the next ice age. Similarly, throughout the train, Wilford continually harps on about the train being the only “eternal,” believing that the train would go on forever. Thereby also justifying his actions and boosting his own ego. However, as the end of the movie shows, the train was not eternal and the world had in fact begun thawing from its ice age. In their own arrogance, the characters let their hubris cloud their minds and ended up warping the world and their actions.

I also really liked the way Curtis’s character evolved. Throughout the movie, Curtis is presented as the hero. The protagonist who’ll lead the poor people to a successful revolution and end up changing the world of the train. However, as the film continues, cracks appear in this description. We see how Curtis sacrifices his best friend in an effort to ensure his revolution succeeds. Curtis himself confesses how he was willing to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, he openly admits that he preferred to eat human babies because they ‘tasted better.’ He’s actually not the hero. This is especially highlighted when his views are contrasted with those of Namgoong, played by Song Kang-Ho, who was an engineer put into a coma as a punishment for doing too many drugs. On an abstract level, Curtis believes in the system of the train. He operates within the system and attempts to hold it in place. In other words, he implicitly supports Wilford’s ideas. On the other hand, Namgoong steadfastly refuses the system. While Curtis plans to take hold of the train by reaching the front, Namgoong plans to blast out of the train. He’s been observing the outside world and has come to the realization that things are changing, i.e. the ice age is subsiding. He openly rejects the system and instead embraces a new one, one not regulated by class or economics. In the end, its Namgoong whose plan Curtis concedes to. Hence, Curtis is shown to be wrong; he’s not the hero. However, he’s also not quite the villain, he’s just simply a human.

Of course, these are just two themes that I found and really resonated with. I’m convinced that there’s many others that I haven’t picked upon but others have. It’s an extremely thought-provoking film. And as this is technically a movie review, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the acting or directing or writing. In terms of acting, if you can’t tell by my review, Chris Evans really knocked it out of the park. He was fabulous as Curtis and gave a very believable performance (although I will say, he did look a tad too muscled, but that’s just me). And the supporting actors, like Song Kang-Ho, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Ed Harris were all really great as well. Directing was pretty good as well. It was actually directed by a South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon-Ho and apparently this was his english-language debut.  My only issue with his filming, was that he made Namgoong’s character speak exclusively Korean. I just thought it was kinda strange. Aside from that, I thought he did a pretty great job, especially when it came to the action sequences and the visual affects. Definitely enjoyed the cinamatography as well. And coming to writing, again, really good as well. Apparently the movie was based upon a French graphic novel. I have not read the novel, but I definitely really enjoyed the themes the movie touched upon.

My rating: watch it if you’re feeling philosophical and be prepared to be taken aback by the acting (Chris Evans especially) and its thought-provoking nature.

Quote of the Week

Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in the way.”     — Janet Fitch, White Oleander