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50/50 - Movie Review

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50/50 - Movie Review

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4 stars

It isn’t often that cancer is the subject of a young man’s sort of coming-of-age tale but, thankfully, we are all the better for it.  50/50 are the chances of one man’s survival rates against the rare type of aggressive cancer that he has in director Jonathan Levine’s serio-comedy of the same name.  Written and experienced by real-life survivor Will Reiser, 50/50 plays the odds and wins with a touching look at what cancer does to its victim’s friends, families, and mental health.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds his back hurting him more and more and, on the off chance that it might be something interesting, he makes an appointment to have it checked out.  No one would suspect that lurking inside him is a killer: cancer.  His reaction to the news is without hysteria; without shock; it is most human.  He simply goes numb for awhile and begins to deal with it – we’re talking next day stuff.  There is no emotion registered.  Leave that to his good friend and wingman, Kyle (Seth Rogen), and his over-worried mother (Anjelica Huston) and react they do.

Since Adam doesn’t drive, his less than awesome girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) promises to stay by him and make sure he gets to all his appointments on time.  Yeah, right.  It’s only a matter of time before that fails…even two older, wisecracking chemotherapy patients (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer) recognize that.  While the cute-as-a-button inexperienced young therapist attached to him by the hospital, Dr. Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick), tries to soothe his soul, Adam faces each day with an inspirational courage that comes from his own self-induced survival mode.  Everyone knows, though, Adam is a walking time bomb…

…and, fortunately, 50/50 gives its story that time; to develop; to hurt; and to heal.  While the story sidelines the underused Frewer all too soon and handles Huston in less than kind ways, the narrative remains an honest and noteworthy ordeal.  It’s engaging to the last and hits its comedic beats with the same finesse that it handles its sadder subject matter.  Laugh.  Cry.  50/50 has it all.

Levitt’s performance is strong and Rogen, as the characteristically f-bomb droppin’ man of the hour who only wants to get his friend laid, has a few surprising moments of quiet emotion that, while will never win him an award, are perfect inflections and affections for the movie.  As they should be, considering the role is the one he played in real life as screenwriter’s Reiser’s friend.  The movie isn’t balanced, though.  The men are much better written than the women are and, as is evident by Kendrick’s character arc, are simply played as types.  Three actresses and three parts: the mother, the bitch, and the girlfriend.

Yet, there are some wonderful moments that ultimately do more to lift 50/50 from its weaker parts.  The chemistry between Levitt and Rogen is natural and amazingly deep in establishing the perfect kinship that makes movies like this work so well.  There are also some great medical marijuana sequences passed around between Hall, Frewer, and Levitt that show just how pure the bond in cancer patients can be and how tragic the whole battle actually is.  Scenes like this, where men take their chemotherapy and behave as men do, make the landing of the film’s emotion a perfect one.

Full of life, substance, and a wonderfully frank view on cancer, there’s more than a 50/50 chance that you’ll find something beautiful to enjoy from this touching experience.

{2jtab: Film Details}

50/50 - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer
: Will Reiser
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Seth Rogen; Anna Kendrick; Bryce Dallas Howard; Anjelica Huston; Serge Houde
Genre
: Comedy | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"So, you really think that the girls gonna go for me just 'cause I have cancer?"
Tagline:
It takes a pair to beat the odds.
Distributor:
Summit Entertainment
Official Site:

Release Date: September 30, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
January 24, 2012

Plot Synopsis: Inspired by personal experiences, 50/50 is an original story about friendship, love, survival and finding humor in unlikely places. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star as best friends whose lives are changed by a cancer diagnosis. Rogen also serves as producer, along with Evan Goldberg and Ben Karlin. Jonathan Levine directs from a script by Will Reiser. "We worked with Will on Da Ali G show, and it was shortly after that we learned he was sick." Rogen recalls. "As shocking, sad, confusing and generally screwed up as it was; we couldn't ignore that because we were so ill-equipped to deal with the situation, funny things kept happening. Will got better, and when he did, we thought the best way to pull something good out of the situation was to get him to write a screenplay. Ideally we wanted to make a film that would be as funny, sad, and hopefully as honest as the experience we went through. As soon as the script was completed, it quickly became a passion project for all of us. It helped us come to terms with Will's struggle as well as our own experiences." 50/50 is the story of a guy's transformative and, yes, sometimes funny journey to health. 50/50 draws its emotional core from Will Reiser's own experience with cancer and reminds us that friendship and love, no matter what bizarre turns they take, are the greatest healers.

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