A Gentler Shade of Crazy
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a stressed-out 16-year-old who has ignored his natural inclinations and talents in favor of pleasing his parents via the most academically prestigious public high school in New York (it’s not called Stuyvesant in the movie). Early one morning, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital (which is not called Bellevue) as an alternative to committing suicide. Because the teen floor is being renovated, Craig is sent to live with the adults for five days. He quickly realizes that his repression-depression is peanuts compared to schizophrenia, or even his roommate’s depression, which is so severe that the poor guy can’t even get out of bed. But nobody in the ward is that crazy. People mumble and shout occasionally, but nobody is lunging or smearing or crying or rocking. Everyone seems to be able to use the bathroom on their own.
Craig’s insta-friend in the psych ward is Bobby, played by the always-amusing Zach Galifianakis in his most mentally stable role to date. Craig also befriends Noelle (Emma Roberts), who apparently cuts herself, but nevertheless appears well balanced, in addition to being beautiful and achingly hip (she references Salvador Allende and T-Rex). Noelle also provides a welcome distraction from Nia (Zoe Kravitz), his best friend’s girl and a major source of his stress.
Craig doesn’t get cured in five days, but he does find a lot of perspective, as well as his artistic nature. And of course he becomes buddies with all of the quirky nutcases, staff and patients alike.
It’s nice that the movie never makes fun of people with mental illnesses; but it doesn’t seek out the blackly humorous side of crazy either — something any psychologist or social worker (or one of their patients) could have done in about five minutes. By removing all the edge from a necessarily edgy subject, the story misses out on a lot of humor and most of its impact.
Still, it manages to be way less saccharine and far more stylish (with some great fantasy sequences) than most family-friendly movies with a message.