Response to the original TBBC Post on 50/50.
If you don’t like depressing films, you better limit your movie-going experience to Disney movies. Life is all about the balance of humor and pathos, and you cannot have one without the other.
Based on a true story of a 27-year old man’s struggle with a very rare form of cancer, 50/50 is a raw and honest portrayal of what’s it’s like to live through cancer treatment, and to face the very real possibility of having a finite timeline to your life expectancy — unlike the rest of us, who blithely go through our day even though we could be hit by a bus (or murdered by some wacko on Craigslist) at any moment.
Billed as a comedy, one must remember the original definition of a comedy. In Shakespeare’s time, a comedy ended in marriage, and a tragedy in death. SPOILER: Ok, I’ve already said it was a true story, and the previous reviewer let you know that the protagonist survives; so, apologies to anyone who is surprised to learn that Adam doesn’t kick the bucket. The possibility that he MAY creates dramatic tension; in some ways, it might have been better if he hadn’t made it, but, fortunately for the film’s author, Will Reiser, that’s not how things worked out for him.
Dark humor, or gallows humor, is still humor. There were a lot of funny moments in this film. The dialogue is composed of the kinds of comments that make you chuckle and then gasp at your own insensitivity. For example, when informed by his doctor that he has a tumor, Adam protests “That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean… I don’t smoke, I don’t drink… I recycle…” Your amusement is definitely tempered by the fact the man has just learned he may die, but his disbelief, and bargaining, is funny.
There is just something immensely appealing in Joseph Gordon-Levitt–his face is expressive and inspires our compassion as he works through the five stages of grief, which seem to be the same ones you go through when faced with the loss of a loved one. My heart broke for him when his piece of crap girlfriend forgot to pick him up after chemo, in spite of her promises to be there for him. Levitt is particularly great when, shortly after starting to lose his hair, he shaves his head (that’s committment to a role right there, being willing to shave your hair off); the whole scene was improvised between Levitt and Seth Rogen, who plays Adam’s best friend Kyle.
Rogen is nothing spectacular–sure, he’s funny, but it’s the same fast-talking sarcastic and caustic, raunchy funny guy he plays in all of his films. There is even a similar plot device to one used in Knocked Up, where the lead doesn’t think Rogen cares, but in fact, he’s been reading and researching (pregnancy in Knocked Up, coping with cancer in 50/50) in secret, and suddenly becomes likeable, instead of just an asshole. The tagline for the film is a nice little play on the gambling theme: “It takes a pair to beat the odds.” I found this film to be much more centered on Adam than on the friendship between the two men.
Anna Kendrick is delightfully awkward as a newly licensed therapist. Angry Adam is her first patient. It’s predictable that they don’t like one another at first, come to rely on each other as friends next (totally annihilating that doctor/patient boundary), and oh, you see where this is going.
I did see this as a date movie, and we found a lot to talk about after; months later, scenes from the film are sticking with me. I guess I’m in the 50% who enjoyed it.