Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a teen who is under a lot of stress. He is freaking out about a summer school application that will, of course, lead to a good college and a good job and a happy life. His parents don’t understand him and he has a crush on his best friend’s girlfriend. His depression and anxiety has made him suicidal so he went to the hospital for help.
They admit him into the ward for adult psychiatric ward. He immediately regrets his decision, but he has to wait at least five days before he can leave. So he spends his days talking to the staff about his problems which includes two fantastic character actors Viola Davis (Doubt) and Jeremy Davies (TV’s LOST)
His real recovery comes from befriending more of the patients. Zach Galifianakis gives an Oscar worthy performance as friendly man named Bobby. His past is slightly mysterious, but he is a very kind and dysfunctional who feels more comfortable in the ward. (Except when he plans the occasional escape.). The other comrade in arms is Noelle played by the increasingly good actress Emma Roberts. Her quirkiness and understanding ends up being just what Craig needs.
There lies the problem. It’s all way too easy. This is the Hollywood mental patient story. Craig finds love and discovers himself through very easy means. None of the patients are violent or really crazy, just Hollywood crazy. One man keeps asking people not to talk so loud, one person doesn’t like leaving his bed, etc. The path Craig takes isn’t very satisfying because it turns out he is a brilliant artist and instantly liked by everyone.
But it’s not like Boden and Fleck have just missed the ball on this movie. They’re just trying out a new genre. There are a lot of narrative experimentations in this film as they jump around by showing what is going on Craig’s head. The biggest risk was a musical performance of David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” Once the familiar notes started playing it already felt like it could have been too on the nose, but Boden and Fleck bring a lot of fun into the heightened scene.
It’s the charm of everyone in this that makes this a very likable and watchable movie. It’s just never pushes itself to greatness, aside from Galifianakis’s performance. He brings so much emotion and honesty that is missed from the other aspects of the story.