DRAMA IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (12A) 101min ●●●●●
Having impressed with Half Nelson and Sugar, indie stalwarts Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden complete a commendable hat trick with It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini,
the film follows suicidal 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) who, upon checking into hospital, finds himself on an adult psych ward as the youth facility is temporarily closed. Once there, he meets and
befriends Bobby (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis), a fellow patient who instils a renewed sense of confidence in him that helps Craig tackle his feelings of anxiety about himself, his friends and family and, naturally, girls.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story marks the most mainstream offering yet from Boden and Fleck but, crucially, doesn’t compromise its indie values. The issues of mental health are never trivialised but there’s a sly coolness about the script, which neatly balances intimate revelations about each character with crowd-pleasing highs such as a wild performance of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’.
As a result, the film touches the heart without feeling forced and gives Galifianakis a career-best, semi- serious role to savour. Gilchrist and Emma Roberts, as another patient, also impress. (Rob Carnevale) ■ General release, Fri 7 Jan.
DRAMA/THRILLER CONVICTION (15) 107min ●●●●●
True life stories can make for compelling cinema experiences, but Conviction, a torn-from-the-headlines tale of a loving sister’s 20-year struggle to clear her brother of a murder conviction, is far too plainly manipulative to impress.
When charismatic Middle American wild-boy Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) is convicted of murder, working mother Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) refuses to accept his guilt, and without the cash to pay for representation, retrains as a lawyer to fight his case. While Kenny rots in prison, Betty Anne is assisted in her quest by fellow lawyer Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), eventually discovering previously unknown evidence.
Actor turned TV director Tony
Goldwyn’s drama features undeniably powerful performances from Swank and Rockwell, but lacks grit, depth or gravity. Although the identity of the real murderer is never revealed, Pamela Gray’s script offers nothing more than a few misty-eyes flashbacks to suggest why Betty Anne had such confidence in her brother’s good nature. Rockwell sheds his good looks to wither away convincingly, and Swank flashes her million dollar smile to good effect, but for patronising its audience, and compromising the undoubted achievements of its earnest protagonists, Conviction stands guilty as charged. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release, Fri 14 Jan.
46 THE LIST 6–20 Jan 2011
DRAMA THE KING’S SPEECH (12A) 118min ●●●●●
The speech in question was a crucial one: a broadcast to the nation by King George VI on the eve of World War II. In the hands of director Tom Hooper, the story of the difficulties faced by George (Colin Firth) in overcoming a speech impediment to inspire the nation plays as heritage cinema with a feelgood twist.
Positioned for wide appeal, Hooper’s film plays down any notions of divine right, and puts the emphasis firmly on patriotic duty. The Duke of York, or Bertie as his family knew him, is introduced stammering through a public speech, but hidden in the crowd is Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric Australian speech therapist.
With Logue’s professional help and friendship, Bertie is able partially to
overcome his problem, but is put to a stern test after the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the abdication of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) leaves him heir to the throne just as war approaches. Speech therapy is hardly obvious material for a film, but Colin Firth ably
applies his trademark affable charm to the difficult task of playing a character who, for most of the film’s length, struggles to get a sentence out. Bertie’s sense of frustration and injured pride is palpable, amplified by a restrained supporting turn by Rush.
Bonham Carter affectionately portrays the Queen Mother, Timothy Spall has
fun as Winston Churchill, and there are sentimental glimpses of the current Queen at seven years old, all bedtime stories and corgis.
The Queen Mum, perhaps understandably, wanted David Seidler’s script to remain unmade until after she died, but it’s a shame she never saw this impeccably acted and kindly meant film, which conveys a minor royal drama with admirable economy and scale. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release, Fri 7 Dec.
DRAMA ABEL (15) 82min ●●●●●
Mexican actor Diego Luna’s first fictional feature film (he previously directed a documentary on the legendary Latino boxer Chavez) is a curious mix of poignant and bizarre. Nine-year-old Abel (Christopher Ruíz-Esparza) returns home after having been hospitalised for two years because of unexplained psychological problems. He doesn’t speak and his mother Cecilia (Karina Gidi) decides to keep her son in their small-town home rather than send him to Mexico City where he can be put in a specialised unit. Then one day Abel starts talking and extraordinarily proclaims himself head of the family, a fantasy that his family are happy to indulge. Luna as an actor has often plumped for quirky roles – Harmony Korine’s
Scotland-set Mister Lonely being a prime example – and he carries this sensibility over to his directing career. Abel works best as a situation comedy, particularly when the young lad tries to get to grips with understanding sexual attraction and baby making. There is also a serious message about parental abandonment and the treatment of children by society that doesn’t always hit home, especially as occasionally Luna struggles to find the right balance between comedy and drama. (Kaleem Aftab) ■ Selected release, Fri 7 Jan. See preview, page 45.