50/50 (2011)

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is just an ordinary twenty-seven year-old. He works in radio with boorish best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), he jogs, avoids phonecalls from his overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) and has successfully convinced himself that his sexless relationship with girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) is nevertheless destined to bounce back. Visiting the doctor with complaints of back-pain, however, Adam is unceremoniously confronted with the news that he has cancer, and is quickly inducted into a world of therapists (Anna Kendrick), chemotherapy and constant, inescapable discomfort. With everything changing, Adam is forced to accept that his life might shortly be over – whether he has ever been to Canada or not.

This could have been such a different movie; boasting a central performance from coarse manchild Seth Rogen and following the trials and tribulations of a man struck down by an uncommon and severe type of cancer, it could have been dreadful. And inappropriate. And offensive. Thankfully, 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s latest stepping stone to cinematic supremacy, is none of those things. Drawing from Rogen’s own experiences, through the writings of his real life cancer survivor Will Reiser, director Jonathan Levine scores the perfect balance between comedy and drama, tempering the dick-jokes with a overwhelmig poignancy which develops across the movie with truly devastating aplomb.

Reminiscent in places of a toned down (500) Days of Cancer – Anna Kendrick sports only a hand-full of quirks – 50/50 manages to tell an engaging love story while simultaneously giving its full attention to Adam’s condition. Gordon-Levitt gives arguably his finest performance to date; from his initial “but I recycle” shock at being diagnosed to the heartbreaking realisation that he might very well die, it’s a role that allows him to fire on all cylinders without once falling into melodramatics. Perhaps 50/50‘s biggest success, aside from pulling off Hollywood’s first ever cancer caper, is the way in which it handles life’s smaller ups and downs: the break-ups, romances and overbearing mothers, such that they never once feel contrived.

Bryce Dallas Howard manages to bring immense sympathy to an unfaithful girlfriend trapped by her own humanity, while Anjelica Huston devastates as a pressured mother desperate to help her son should he ever call her back.  It is Anna Kendrick, however, who ultimately wins hearts as the film’s unorganised comic relief. Playing a novice character similar to Up In The Air‘s Natalie Keener in everything but personality, Kendrick’s performance rings surprisingly true as the post-graduate professional who still feels like a child wearing ill-fitting grown-up clothes.

But what of Rogen? While his portrayal of Adam’s weed smoking, sex starved best friend Kyle might not scream versatility, it is thankfully a case of actions speaking loud than words. Forever in the background, it is a hugely selfless performance, one that boasts a tremendous honesty rooted in Rogen’s experience with this exact situation. In a third act twist, hinging on an otherwise nondescript trip to the bathroom, Rogen inadvertently – and indirectly – provides one of the biggest emotional punches of the entire movie.

Touching, life-affirming and occasionally devastating, 50/50 is nevertheless a witty and well humoured tale of cancer, car-cleaning and chemotherapy. Transformed into a frail, angry and increasingly lonely patient, 50/50 is a truly stirring tale of Adam’s struggle to survive and – however unlikely – the most enjoyable film about cancer you are ever likely to see.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to 50/50 (2011)

  1. Pingback: November 2011 – There’s Always Time For A Bow « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: 50/50 (2011) « popcornaddict

  3. Pingback: 50/50 (2011/II) « popcornaddict

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