50/50 (2011/II)

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the good guys; he’s a trusting boyfriend, an enthusiastic employee and a keen recycler. When he is driven to the doctors by a recurring back pain, however, Adam is informed that he has a rare type of spinal cancer, an unpronounceable tumour, and a mere 50% chance of survival. While his boorish best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) uses the diagnosis to strike up conversations with women, his estranged mother (Anjelica Huston) seizes the opportunity to reconnect with her distant son and Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds herself trapped in a sexless relationship by such inconvenient bad news, Adam is left to come to terms with his own mortality as he is inducted into a world of therapists (Anna Kendrick), chemotherapy and constant, inescapable discomfort – whether he has ever been to Canada or not.

Film: Despite having already raved about Jonathan Levine’s unlikely cancer comedy, an unexpectedly good natured film which somehow still has room for Seth Rogen’s now familiar sex-obsessed stoner, it seems that many still weren’t convinced enough to seek the film out in cinemas.  It’s a shame, really, because former cancer-sufferer Will Reiser’s script strikes such a fine balance between compassion and comedy that it is impossible not to be won over by such a provocative and ultimately poignant treatment of this most sensitive of subjects. Inspired by true events and cast through with accomplished actors, this is as unconventional as sit-coms come.

While it is of course the cancer which drives the movie, providing the basis for some of the movies most touching scenes, much of the comedy comes from the other dramas that result from a diagnosis. So it is, then, that Adam finds himself high on macaroons laced with medicinal marijuana, shaving his head with a razor better acquainted with Kyle’s body hair and compulsively cleaning his therapist’s car. While rarely laugh-out-loud, 50/50 always strives to find truth – if not necessarily humour – in even the most taboo of situations, those that are usually reserved for awards-bait or high melodrama. The characters are so well drawn, so well observed through experience, in fact, that much of the relative mundaneness can be almost as devastating than the original prognosis itself.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is absolutely heart-breaking as the disbelieving Adam, grounding the film with a performance that is as subtle as it is harrowingly raw. Although at times docile, as he tries to come to terms with his illness while himself trying to support those around him – whether its his concerned mother or his trainee therapist – his stable demeanour only serves to emphasise the moments in which his resolve fractures, one scene in particular standing out as he takes his regrets and frustrations out on the interior of his friend’s car. It is perhaps Rogen, however, who impresses most, with his characteristically brash exterior carefully masking a concerned individual who is just as lost and confused as his potentially dying friend.

Sweet natured and respectful, 50/50 nevertheless endeavours – and successfully manages – to find the humour even in the most trying of situations. Witty, moving and occasionally devastating, this is the comedy genre at its very best.

Extras: Both the Double Play and DVD releases of 50/50 come complete with a host of compelling special features: an insightful audio commentary sheds light on the filmmaking process as various cast and crew members discuss the production process; a collection of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), including a great sequence documenting Adam’s short-lived return to work and the film’s original ending; a Making Of documentary titled The Story Of 50/50 which sensitively addresses the impact of cancer among the crew; four mini-featurettes that focus on the destruction of Rachael’s much-maligned painting; and Seek and Destroy, a behind the scenes montage chronicling the burgeoning onset bromance between Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

**50/50 is released on Double Play & DVD from 26 March, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment**

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

One Response to 50/50 (2011/II)

  1. athameem says:

    I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for quite a while, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Your review really makes it sound worth watching though, so I guess that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend 😀

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