Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Angelica Huston
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 99 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Drama
USA Release: 9/30/2011
On DVD (USA): 1/24/2012
Awards: 2 Golden Globe Nominations
Yes folks the critics all agree, “50/50” like this summer’s surprise hit “Bridesmaids” is being called one of the years best and funniest. In a year drowned with superheroes, remakes, and sequels, “50/50” may by exactly what movie goers need as the end of the year approaches. Who knows if audiences will feel the same as the critics, but hopefully they are willing to also take same 50/50 chance.
“50/50” is a story about Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a young man just living life, until one day after repeated back problems he decides to go to the doctor. There he gets told that he has a rare type of cancer, and will need to do chemotherapy in order to reduce the tumor enough for surgery. After finding everything out he tells his girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) and gives her an out as he understands this can be very hard, but she tells him she wants to stay and take care of him. A couple days after finding out he decides to carefully tell his mother Diane (Angelica Huston) who is under enough stressed because she is already taking care of Adam’s father Richard (Serge Houde) who has Alzheimer’s disease. All of them worry for Adam as his treatment is getting ready to begin, while his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) just wants him to enjoy life and have fun. While he is beginning his chemotherapy Adam starts seeing the very young and inexperienced hospital recommended psychiatrist Katherine “Katie” McCay (Anna Kendrick) and also befriends to older chemo patients Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer). As he continues his battle, he begins to lose hope while succumbing to the anger and numbness he has hidden away.
“50/50” accomplishes the thing that many other films have tried and failed at over the years, giving a well balanced dramedy that deals with very serious subject matter. While most tend to either bring up the comedy and lose the seriousness of the story, or just forget about the comedy and become very depressing, this brings a raw and realistic truth to the heartbreaking subject that is cancer. Loosely based on the real life of Will Reiser who also wrote the screenplay, “50/50” delivers both a touching and funny film, that will have you rooting for Adam the whole way through. Reiser’s story is extremely well writing, only someone who has gone through this could have wrote such a honest and compelling story. Although much more of a drama then it lets on in the trailer, it’s so well balance that it never leaves you depressed, it give funny moments throughout, some more laugh out loud then others, while sometimes getting very dark. There were a couple of time that I found it getting a little too slow, but overall it keeps it’s pacing pretty tight as we move through his various stages of grief. Even though there might be some things that may not be completely truthful, it still never feels fake or intent on giving you a “Lifetime” kind of film. “50/50” is probably the best film of it’s kind for the way it is presented as it tends to stay away from Hollywood clichés. Like the writing the directing done by Jonathan Levine is also top notch keeping with the smoothness and tight pacing of the storyline. Levine shot this very well letting the emotions form naturally instead of forcing it on us. But of course what really makes this film great are the actors, Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall both do fantastic jobs in the roles as Mitch and Alan two fellow patients that become friends with Adam. They show him that you don’t need to go around depressed all the time but try to continue to live life. Angelica Huston and Serge Houde are also great as Adam’s parents, Huston really shines playing up the worrying and stressed out mother who tries her hardest to do everything even when her plate is already full. Bryce Dallas Howard does a good performance as Rachel, Adam’s girlfriend. Although her character is one we of course hate, Howard does well at it like she also did in this summers “The Help” but her character seemed to be not fully formed and a bit predictable.
Rounding out to the main part of the cast Anna Kendrick does a wonderful job as Katie (Adam’s psychiatrist), she is as nervous and inexperienced as he his with this, but together they work to become more comfortable talking about what he is dealing with. Kendrick delivers a great performance much like she did in 2009’s “Up in the Air”, she brought a caring and compassionate person into the life of Adam who up until then was only dealing with his uncaring and almost sadistic doctor every time he went to the hospital. She is nervous and unprepared for almost everything Adam comes to her with, but she tries her best to give him a sense of trust and more importantly hope. Seth Rogen delivers a surprisingly great performance as Kyle (Adam’s best friend, who is actually based on Rogen himself). Rogen who I feel keeps playing the same characters over and over again surprised me with the array of emotions he using in this role. Although I like some of his other movies I have been waiting to see more of his talent and this is a stepping stone in a good direction. Of course Rogen delivers a great deal of comedy and does very well, I think audiences will enjoy seeing a new side to him as the movie progresses. As for our leading man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers another excellent performance as Adam. Much like in his role of Tom in “(500) Days of Summer” Gordon-Levitt shows us that charming side we all know and love, although his character seems to be the kind of person you can easily take advantage of. As Adam we see as he tries to keep everything from being to stressful by hiding much of how he really feels. For much of the movie he tries to put on a happy face like he isn’t depressed or angry and even too tired to do something. But as his journey continues those feeling start to uncontrollably come up, (more in the presence of Katie) until he finally explodes, having all of the emotions take over.
Overall, I totally agree with the critics, “50/50” delivers a heartfelt story that makes you laugh and also cry as Adam faces a challenge that no one should have to endure. It’s smartly written and well cast having great performances by everyone especially Gordon-Levitt, Rogen and Kendrick. This is among one of the best films of the year for it’s courage to tell such a raw, funny, and genuine story about battling cancer.