Craig Gilner seems like your average teenager with you average problems, but a series of troubling thoughts guide him to check himself into a psychiatric ward at the local hospital. Quickly Craig believes he has made a mistake as he observes the large range of issues across the ward but with hospital regulations requiring a specific observation time, he is stuck until after his review after 5 days. Afraid of his roommate and feeling lost in a sea of psychological issues, he quickly befriends Bobby who serves as his guide to surviving the experience. While exploring his own problems and his obsession over his childhood friend Nia, he meets Noelle, a girl about his age who seems to show an interest in his complexity. Through the support of Bobby and the growing love with Noelle, Craig seeks to understand how he went from academic success to psychological breakdown and how to make it all work.
Starring: Keir Gilchrist (Craig Gilner), Zach Galifianakis (Bobby), Dana DeVestern (Alyssa), Lauren Graham (Lynn), Jim Gaffigan (George), Karen Chilton (Nurse Harper), Aasif Mandvi (Dr. Mahmoud), Jared Goldstein (Ronny), Alan Aisenberg (Scuggs), Zoe Kravitz (Nia)
Young talent coming into these lesser appreciated dramas seems to be continuing a pattern of strength and surprise. Keir Gilchrist shines as the confused teenager with the weight of the world on his shoulders. While he sometimes seems to trivialize his situation, he highlights the pressures of the modern teenage boy who is caught between academic success, future planning, the landscape of love and internal expectations. He never seems to be so overwhelmed that he would actually follow through but just enough that the experience drastically changes his perspective by the end of the film. Zack Galifianakis returns to the screen in his usual quirky ways but surprisingly more realistic while working through some challenging personal issues. He portrays a man who hides the real reasons for his insecurities and depressive tendencies through emotional outbursts and investing himself in the problems of others. Noelle, played by Emma Roberts, is a lost soul who struggles to cope with not having a strong sense of self. Her finding of Craig serves as an opportunity to make a human connection vital to her recovery from self-harm.
The title’s play on words helps to highlight the comedic aspects of the film while hiding the true human drama which is central to the story. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck create a diverse world within a hospital ward through the use of colorful personalities and relatable challenges. Craig’s problems are not uncommon for teenagers today. Academics continue to get more competitive as college continues to become more of an expectation than a privilege. While he does not initially understand his opportunities in life afforded in concert with his pressures, the message is no less important because of his lack of perspective. The support he receives is not conventional. Experiencing life with people who would give anything to live as close to “normal” as possible and experience true happiness leads him back on a path to successfully navigate his personal but no less significant conflicts. Bobby’s challenges highlight more of the cruelty of imbalanced brain chemistry and social struggles that many quietly suffer through.
This film is a surprise hit with its clever dialogue, quirky characters and relatable challenges. It is worth the visit to this ward to appreciate the valuable people and elements that make life worth living.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5