Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Opens locally, Friday, September 30th, 2011
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston
Written by Will Reiser (1st feature screenplay)
Directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness)
When diagnosed with cancer at the age of 27, Adam is forced to face his humanity, and the possibility that he will die before having a chance to live his life. His uncaring doctor tells him his chances of survival are “50/50.” His over-protective mother already has her hands full with his dad who is battling Alzheimer’s, and his best friend doesn’t quite understand his situation. His girlfriend gives up on him as well, not wanting to act as companion and nurse to a dying patient.
And with that premise, “50/50” is somehow the year’s funniest, laugh-out-loud film thus far. It is also one of the most touching, hopeful, and true-to-life films in recent memory.
And it’s a good thing that the movie is hilarious…it needs to be. The hilarity works well, wrapping the real medicine of the film’s message in a delicious chocolate, so that it’s easily digestable.
The fact that Adam (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has cancer is no spoiler…it is the crux of the movie. But “50/50” sees Adam as “living with,” not “dying from” cancer. In such a serious realm as cancer diagnosis, life, and death, different people will surely have different reactions based on their own experiences and beliefs. Smartly, the script encompasses nearly every conceivable kind of person to be found in a situation such as this…the over-bearing worrier, the ill-equipped, the eternal optimist, the realist. Each finds truth in their characters, shedding light on the human condition when a loved one is faced with such brutal news.
Levitt as Adam portrays the wide range of emotions that I believe a person would go through. He is numb at times, optimistic and hopeful at others, with moments of pure rage and sadness mixed in. And although he is surrounded by family and friends, they are not the ones with cancer…he is alone. The whole spectrum is portrayed brilliantly.
The emotional roller-coasters of the surrounding friends and family are also given justice. Seth Rogen is spot-on as the friend who doesn’t want to believe the stakes, who copes with his buddy’s illness by taking personal advantage of the situation. He cares in his own way, but he is no caricature, and Rogen is perfect. Bryce Dallas Howard is having quite a year, and plays the girlfriend who just can’t handle her new situation…you may think you “love” someone when all is good, but what about when things get tough? Anjelica Huston is Adam’s mother, who I think will be a relatable character…and although screen time is at a minimum, she gives the kind of supporting performance that Oscars are made for. Anna Kendrick is great in her role as a new psychologist appointed to counsel Adam through his recovery…the two have great chemistry as they both are learning to live with their new roles in life.
To say that “50/50” is a comedy dealing with cancer is not only an understatement, for some it may be a deterrent. Cancer is no laughing matter and the mere subject alone may cause some folks to by-pass the movie altogether. But make no mistake, “50/50” is a movie about life and living, not death and dying. I can’t remember a more accurate and encompassing take on the human spirit.
And ultimately, “50/50” stands atop this year’s films for it’s amazing ability of portraying truth. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it transforms not only the stricken, but everyone involved. How “50/50” captured this so perfectly is a true achievement in filmmaking. It also stands as a reminder that even when given 50/50 odds, the glass is inarguably half-full…depending on how you choose to view it. “50/50” takes the half-full take on life not as an unrealistic optimist would, but rather as an example of how all of us should be living our lives. If you think about it, we all face less than 50/50 odds in the end.
They say laughter is the best medicine. In “50/50” we are given the perfect prescription and dosage, mixed with a potency few comedies possess. It is one of this year’s best films, full of hope, laughter, and love. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and if you are human, you will leave with a renewed vigor to not sweat the small stuff in life, even when the small stuff is pretty big.
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