When someone begins a sentence with “Hey! Funny story…” that’s exactly what we’re expecting – to laugh at an unusual circumstance or giggle at an ironic or unfortunate event that transpired. But in Michael Gallagher’s feature film, Funny Story, audiences can expect a string of laughs paired with tears and heartbreak for this family drama/comedy.
The film follows Walter Campbell (Matthew Glave, The Wedding Singer, First Man, Better Things) as he struggles to overcome his expiring days as a heartthrob while simultaneously trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Nic (Jana Winternitz, The Thinning). In doing so, he finds himself in a unique position to make things right; but can he relinquish his selfish ways? Or will one encounter ruin any chance of an amicable reunion with his daughter?
Walter Campbell isn’t, by any means, a stand-up father or character for that matter, and the film doesn’t shy away from this fact. When we first see him, Walter is close to breaking up with his significantly younger girlfriend. He only changes his mind when she reveals that she’s pregnant with his child. Prior to that, his first marriage resulted in a cheating scandal, which is the prime reason for the fallout with his daughter Nic. Plain and simple, Walter probably hadn’t received any “best dad ever” merchandise in this lifetime. As the film progresses, he aims to change his selfish ways, first by inviting himself to Big Sur to come clean to Nic and begin to mold their relationship. But is it all to regain the trust of his loved ones, or will his self-destructing ways get the best of him and bring everyone else down along the way?
To put him to the test, Nic assigns him to pick up her friend Kim (Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow, Brooklyn), who is having a life crisis of her own. Emily Bett Rickards gives a remarkable performance as the impecunious Kim, who instead of embracing her faults and misfortunes, uses them as an emotional shield and excuse for not opening up emotionally. Perhaps it’s because she has been estranged from her own mother who has recently died without having had a single visit from Kim. So to say that Kim might be suffering emotionally seems like a vast understatement, and the film certainly reveals this in more ways than one.
When Kim and Walter cross paths, plenty of secrets are revealed and tears shed, but it is the chemistry between Rickards and Glave that will shine through. Matthew Glave’s perfect comedic timing paired with the vulnerable yet disorderly appeal of Emily Bett Rickards’ performance is an odd pair that simply works perfectly. And despite the unappealing nature of these characters’ personalities, one can’t help but to feel for them on some level. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen as they both try to get through their wrongdoings and terrible decisions they’ve made. But that’s exactly why audiences will love this feature. It’s a film filled with good people who do bad things, but such is life. It’s the chaos and disorder that reminds us that life is indeed messy; but we can only grow from it if we choose to forgive ourselves and make amends. Together, Rickards and Glave take these concepts & script and hit home runs by executing their characters’ complexities with charm and honesty.
When Kim and Walter finally arrive at Big Sur, audiences can expect the film to really take off in terms of introducing new characters that offer a compelling aspect of this funny story about forgiveness, growth and acceptance. Nic’s group of friends are all part of the LGBTQ+ community, which comes as a surprise to Walter. As he quizzes the group of women about their sexuality, coming off as ignorant as one would expect, the conversations actually remain sweet yet firm and informative akin to the progressiveness of today’s politics thanks to the women who are more tolerant than they have to be. All might seem well as Nic sees her father share this new open side of himself, but one grave secret is bound to ruin what was supposed to be a great weekend, and the climax certainly delivers in realism, and it’s sure to leave viewers heartbroken.
There are many strengths to Gallagher’s feature such as the witty script accompanied by the dry humor and great performances. The team also managed to shoot this charming, dark comedy in only 15 days along the coasts of California. This is certainly surprising considering just about everything in this film works very well, giving rise to a quirky comedy/tragedy in which it gives as many great visuals as it does the care and attention to the characters of its script. And in doing so, Funny Story will be a film that audiences are bound to enjoy despite its reflection of this mayhem we call life.