Movie Review: 50/50
Cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt. Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Houston
Plot: Adam discovers that he has a rare form of spinal cancer with only a 50/50 chance of beating it. His life is sent into a spiral that effects those close to him.
Review: Loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, a friend of Seth Rogen, this seems like a pretty steep topic to be covered by actors normally known for their comedy roles. Even a look at just the trailer informs you that the topic of living with cancer is dealt with in a humane and sensitive way whilst being the source comedy for much of the film. The strongest part of the movie is that the character are incredibly well written, complex and sympathetic even if they’re not doing the right thing by the main character.
Adam, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, is the lynchpin to the movie. Levitt has matured as an actor over the last decade and it there’s anyone left doubting his skills as an actor after this role they’re greatly under-appreciating the young performer. He’s subtle when he needs to be subtle and outwardly emotional when the need arises without making it seem hammy. Rogen doesn’t deviate much from his usual routine, but there’s no denying that this part is well suited. The best friend who wants to be helpful but can’t take the situation seriously enough is very much Rogen playing Rogen. Anna Kendrick once again manages to steal practically every scene that she’s involved in, especially challenging in a role where she could’ve come across as aggravating. She’s a therapist who Adam is referred to upon receiving his diagnosis to help him cope with the situation, but being largely inexperienced in her field every advice that she offers sounds as though it’s read from the textbook verbatim.
Rather than just being a personal story for the lead character this movie encompasses the viewpoints of many characters that are involved in his life. Most interesting at the outset is the plight of his girlfriend. Although they appear to be in a good relationship they hadn’t yet reached the stage of making a real commitment to each other, putting her in awkward position of making a decision has to whether she will continue to care for him as his health deteriorates or break up with him shortly after he finds out he has cancer. Although he gives her an opportunity to get out at the beginning she does try to do the right thing, and it’s clear to the viewer what a difficult situation this is for both of them. Likewise his overbearing mother is unable to cope with the situation, and his reluctance to involve her leads to some heartbreaking moments. His best friend is a different matter, actually being completely supportive but in sometimes inappropriate ways, like using his friends cancer as a way to meet girls.
A very human and a very heartfelt look at a person and the people around him dealing with the sudden and unexpected onset of cancer, but by the end of the movie it feels as though it’s pulled some punches. The comedy is not used consistently through-out the film, feeling as though it’s been forcibly held at bay during the dramatic scenes (while the Whedon approach of undercutting a dramatic scene with a comedic line might’ve worked) leaving the movie feeling as though it’s not as funny as it could’ve been. At the same time the drama sometimes feels like it holds back from letting the characters go really in-depth with their emotions, leaving the big moments for when the characters have their one scene where they let everyone out. Sometimes the resolutions to the conflicts feel very neat, such as Adam finding a book that reveals his friend has been taking it more seriously than he thought.
50/50 is a great film and highly recommended as a feel-good movie with a serious edge to it. It feels like it could’ve been a bit funnier and a bit more dramatic, but there’s little doubt that anyone wouldn’t enjoy it.
Score: SEVEN outta TEN