Let’s be honest, cancer is not funny. Even if your worst enemy got cancer tomorrow, you wouldn’t be laughing at all, but trying to comfort him in his worst hour. So when writer Will Reiser was diagnosed with a type of spinal cancer, a part of his healing process, along with his friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was to write about it. And why not write about the bright side of it all (if you can call it bright)?
50/50 is about Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt, (500) Days of Summer), a twenty-seven year old radio writer that finds out that he has a very rare type of back cancer. After the news, he tells co-worker and best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen, Knocked Up) and girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help). As weeks go by, and as his therapy sessions with his 24 year old psychiatrist (Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air), Adam tries to heal himself by surrounding himself with people who care about him.
The best thing about 50/50 is that it knows when to be funny, and when to be deathly serious. The beginning shows how strong each actor can be when it comes to looking at the bright side of what Adam is going through. However, when one of his best friends leaves him, the movie does a complete 180 and finds itself becoming more of a drama than a comedy. Adam not only comes to terms with what he has, but understands that there’s a very good chance that he could die from it, which makes for some incredibly touching and powerful scenes.
Each of the actors give amazing performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt puts out an outstanding performance as Adam. As he falls deeper into his cancer treatment, you continually feel for him. Anna Kendrick also gives a great performance. Though she doesn’t have a large comedic aspect to the film, her character and her actions towards Adam feel genuine in nature, and helps create a great chemistry between the two characters.
The biggest surprise of the entire movie, in my opinion, is Seth Rogen. Yeah, he might be playing the same kind of buddy that he seems to play in his other movies, but playing a character that had to support someone with “Type 4 Back Cancer” makes him more likable than anything. Also, Adam’s mother (played by Anjelica Huston) stole a lot of the scenes that she was in, and did a magnificent job playing an extremely protective mother, all for the right reasons of course.
Besides from the acting, all of the technical aspects were perfect. The soundtrack fits amazingly with the mood and attitude of what was going on. The film also had scenes that were just beautifully shot (the wheat-grass scene stood out the most), and deserves a lot of recognition.
Honestly, this isn’t a comedy about cancer. It’s a dramady about overcoming cancer. Each actor, no matter how big or small, did a great job. Director Jonathan Levine knows how to make jokes and pull out humor from a normally terrifying situation without having the audience groan. Even at it’s most dramatic and tear-jerking scenes, it can make you smile with a perfectly placed bit of hilarity. I know that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences aren’t too keen about having comedies in the running for Best Picture, but why not have 50/50 in the running? The actors are superb, it was beautifully shot, an incredible soundtrack, and moments that knew when to make you laugh and to tug at your heart strings. Flat out, 50/50 is one of the best films of the year.
Final Grade: A