You Will Kind of Never Let Me (Weekly Links)

Garfield and Mulligan: Never Let Me Go, or a rehearsal for the next Psycho remake.

Reviews I wrote for the Herald this week.

Secretariat. “Feel the hype.”

Never Let Me Go. “An arty take on a plot that might’ve come from a scrappy little sci-fi magazine.”

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. “Flabby exercise.”

It’s Kind of a Funny Story. (Dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

It’s kind of a pee-wee league “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” this new indie about a depressed teen who spends a few days in a psychiatric unit in a New York hospital.

And, according to the title, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” too. Craig is a 16-year-old, played by the likable Keir Gilchrist, who feels overwhelmed one afternoon and sort of, kind of, wants to check himself in for treatment. He doesn’t quite realize that once checked into the unit, he’s stuck there for a few days. That casual sense of entitlement, of thinking he can waltz in without a game plan, is a somewhat unexamined piece of this movie.

Once inside, Craig meets a zany group of characters. These folks may be true to life, but they have about them the suspect air of movie people.

It works out that Craig meets up with a fetching young woman (Emma Roberts, from “Nancy Drew”) and a shaggy mentor (Zach Galifianakis). They have advice on how to get over the girl (Zoe Kravitz) he’s obsessed with. There are a couple of visits from Craig’s parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan), and the telephone is a lifeline to the outside world. Despite his initial anxiety about news of his hospitalization getting around, he’s pleasantly surprised when his schoolmates actually think he’s cool because of his stay.

This film moves along nicely, has some passable laughs, and boasts a neat soundtrack (the original music is by Broken Social Scene). Yet something about it just feels too packaged.

It’s like watching a sitcom set in a mental ward. That concept is not impossible, perhaps, but it raises certain complexities that the film doesn’t much get into. This is a mild surprise coming from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who previously did the searching “Half Nelson” and “Sugar.” If they wanted a holiday, this certainly qualifies.

There are some intriguing touches along the way, including the casting of Jeremy Davies (“Lost”) as a hospital attendant. Somehow he seems weirder as a normal person than he does when playing oddballs.

But if the movie has a singular feature it’s the performance of Zach Galifianakis, whose stand-up career has led him to breakout stardom in movies such as “The Hangover” and “Dinner for Schmucks.” It’s no revelation that this hedgehog of an actor hits the comic notes. But in his serious moments his shambling, disheartened demeanor feels authentic, and Galifianakis takes the time to act with his eyes. It’s a fine turn by someone easy to underrate.

Sleep Furiously. “We watch the wind blow through the trees.”

The Freebie. “Intentionally modest.”

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talked with Steve Scher about The Social Network and its status as a movie of the moment. Listen here.

And thanks to everybody at the Moses Lake Museum and Art Center for hosting my talk last night, and thanks to Humanities Washington for their Inquiring Minds program. A very good time it was; now I need to find a breakfast place around here.

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