Published on September 13th, 2010 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Will Ferrell, Zach Galifinakis take serious turns at TIFF

Ah yes, the dramatic role. Every comedy star has one! Gotta prove you can be taken seriously, right? But in two of the films premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), there’s no cringing at the comedian’s need for dramatic validation, and nothing that makes you feel like you’re a pawn in an indulgent vanity project.

Will Ferrell, Dan Rush, and Rebecca Hall at the world premiere of Everything Must Go, Sept. 9. Photo by Sharilyn Johnson

Everything Must Go
Director: Dan Rush
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall

Ever have one of those days you figure just can’t get any worse? In one fell swoop, an aging – but still superstar – sales executive (Will Ferrell) loses his job, and returns home to his upper-middle class Arizona subdivision only find his home life has been destroyed too. He’s been locked out by his wife, his belongings all over the front lawn.

Make no mistake: it’s all his fault. Alcoholism is at the root of all his losses. Not the clichéd violent asshole type. No, he just needs a case of PBR to get through the day. Especially now.

He ran himself out of options, and has literally nowhere else to go. So he sits on his front lawn. Day in, day out. Not spending much time dwelling on what he’s going to actually do. Just living day to day. You can hardly blame him for feeling defeated.

It would be easy to write a character with an addiction as an asshole, and have him learn a giant lesson in the end about being a better person. That would be the shortcut. But he’s sympathetic from the beginning, simply because even decent people screw up. He screwed up. A lot.

Nothing gets solved in a satisfactory – if not perfectly tidy – fashion. That’s life, after all. But ultimately, we’re left hopeful that he’ll get his stuff together, and not just the stuff on the lawn.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts

While the young and talented Keir Gilchrist is a fantastic lead in this film, TIFF-goers have been referring to this as “the Galifinakis movie”. Because really, there’s no resisting the fact that Zach is going to steal any scene he’s in.

The film is set in the mental health ward of a hospital, which Gilchrist’s character checks himself into after having suicidal thoughts. Once he meets the other patients, he questions whether he’s made the right decision.

Galifinakis plays a fellow patient who on paper isn’t totally unlike his public persona. Kind of a weirdo, kind of mysterious in that we’re not entirely sure what lies beneath the oddness.

He’s the requisite “patient running the asylum”. He knows the ins and outs of the place, how to get his hands on banned snacks, and how to find out what everyone’s deal is. But he’s not so keen on revealing what his own deal is.

As the two strike up a friendship, the floor full of weirdos starts seeming a lot less scary – and so do the mental illnesses.

Does it have funny moments? Of course. Tons of them. But this quirky drama is, first and foremost, a drama. The reality of these people’s existences are not easy to swallow when they’re laid out.

I will say this: It’s Kind of a Funny Story is perhaps the most predictable film I’ve ever seen. But this isn’t about the destination. It’s the journey, and the pleasure of watching someone figure out what you already know to be true.

Comedy nerds will appreciate the frequent comedian cameos throughout from the likes of Aasif Mandvi, Jim Gaffigan, and Morgan Murphy. But the depth we see from Galifinakis is what’s likely to please the masses most.

Zach Galifinakis and Emma Roberts at the world premiere of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Sept 11. Photo by Sharilyn Johnson.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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