50/50 (2011)

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston

Making a film that deals with this kind of subject matter requires the utmost delicacy. CancerThe very mention of the word tends to cause a sharp intake of breath in regular conversation. And for the director, Jonathan Levine, to take the true story of a young man, dealing with his battle with the disease, and make it into a comedy….with Seth Rogen no less….one might think that he is not treating it with the proper amount of respect. However, this could not be further from the truth.

The plot:
Adam (Gordon-Levitt) leads an ordinary life until the day he is diagnosed with a rare strain of cancer. Suddenly, aspects of his life which he had always taken for granted are brought into a much sharper perspective. How he sees people, such as his overbearing mother (Huston), his irresponsible best friend Kyle (Rogan) and his supportive girlfriend (Howard), his perspective on all of these things changes completely as he is faced with his own mortality. With support from the people who truly care about him, he adapts to a different kind of lifestyle.

It doesn’t come across as a film that is brimming with side-splitting jokes. And, yes, it seems like an odd choice of narrative for a film featuring Seth Rogan, a man who revels in beer and marijuana related humour. However, despite the odd set up…..it works. It walks a delicate line for the full 100 minutes of screen time. Never leaning too far into disrespect with the gags, and never too laden with drama that it is unenjoyable. It knocks the audience for six before you even knew how much you cared.

Levitt does stellar work with the sickly Adam. Already a shy and introverted character, his illness forces him into unpleasant places, where he is forced to come out of his shell in order to feel secure in himself. Pain can clearly be seen on his face throughout the entire feature, as he deals with issues that, regrettably, come to light at the worst possible time. He doesn’t say much (with words), and yet, you will find yourself relating to so many of the difficulties he faces, that a very strong attachment has grown by the film’s conclusion.

Seth Rogan does what Seth Rogan does best in this film. He adds a quirky, not-very-pc, but strangely charming sense of comic relief. He gets a great deal of the best lines, ensuring that the story doesn’t get weighted down with the very real subject matter that hangs over it. He still manages to get a lot of beer and marijuana jokes in, medicinal marijuana to be precise. There aren’t any ridiculous, over the top, comic set pieces, and the real comedy actually comes from the banter between the two, little asides and quips that they share in an attempt to lighten the mood.

The rest of the cast hand in solid performances also. Huston really owns the role of the overbearing mother, capturing the attitude and energy perfectly. Anna Kendrick also gives a surprisingly convincing performance as Adam’s therapist. We are given the distinct impression that there is no chemistry between the two whatsoever, and this may initially appear to be a fault in her acting, until you realise it is cleverly leading you into an area you weren’t completely expecting.

The entire affair is shot quite simply, except when the medical world, the world of the disease, intrudes on Adams’. Here, things become distorted, the palette is drenched in greys and medical greens. The soundtrack is also very well suited, hinting at the films outcome, but never offering any guarantees.

50/50 makes a brave move in dealing with this kind of material, particularly by dealing with it in this comedic fashion. It presents us with a truly heart wrenching story of a man unaware of how important he is to some, and how unimportant to others. This realisation could only be brought about by undergoing the drastic change he goes through, instigating an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair. It’s hard to believe that such a narrative is actually classed as “comedy”, but it is actually remarkably funny and enjoyable throughout. This is a film you will walk away from truly affected by. Its light-hearted tone shouldn’t be seen as a mark of disrespect. Instead, it takes one of the most painful subjects the modern world has to offer, and offers us hope.

Rating: 9/10

No one wants to fuck me, I look like Voldemort” – Adam

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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