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Review: 50/50

Sep. 30, 2011by: Chris Bumbray
100%


PLOT: Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seems to have it all. Only twenty-seven, he has a good job, and a cute girlfriend, and is happy. Suddenly, his world in thrown into turmoil, when he's diagnosed with an aggressive form of spinal cancer, that offers only a fifty-fifty chance of survival. His girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas-Howard) can't deal, leaving him in the care of his happy-go-lucky best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen), as he goes through chemotherapy, and comes to term with his possibly terminal illness.

REVIEW: Cancer's a pretty tough subject for a comedy. Anyone remember FANBOYS? The cancer subplot to that film worked so poorly, it almost got excised completely, and unless you're golden-age James L. Brooks (who's TERMS OF ENDEARMENT is name checked here), it's probably best to leave it alone. However, I'm pleased to report that not only does 50/50 work, but for the most part it works brilliantly.


Astoundingly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt almost didn't end up playing the lead, which seems tailor made for him. James McAvoy was originally signed before dropping out, and while I'm sure he would have done a fine job, this is a powerhouse for Levitt, who I think deserves some award consideration for his role here. He's terrific as the quiet, easygoing Adam, who even the most cynical viewer will like right from the first shot, where he hesitates to jay-walk, just on the one-in-a-million chance that a car comes along and clips him.

Inspired (but not directly based) on the experiences of Will Reiser, having the cancer patient be twenty-seven is unusual, as young men are not typically the kind of cancer patient portrayed, but alas, cancer knows no prejudice. Levitt's Adam keeps a brave face and a good attitude throughout, but at the same time, we see how he struggles everyday with the uncertainty his disease brings him. Still, he manages to keep his cool, until a cathartic emotional scene late in the film that is deeply affecting, and perfectly acted by Levitt- who really needs to be considered an A-list leading man from now on.

Levitt gets able support from all-around, with Seth Rogen having a key part as Adam's supportive best friend, who tries to keep his buddy sane (and high-HIGH- with lots of medicinal marijuana playing a part) throughout, establishing a pity-free relationship, which is what anyone caught in a similar circumstance would need. This is Rogen's best role in a long time, and one that plays to all of his strengths. He's funny, but in a loose, not-over the top funny face kind of way, and it's the kind of role someone like John Belushi or John Candy could have played in their prime.


Anna Kendrick from UP IN THE AIR is on-board as Adam's therapist/love interest, who takes him on as her first patient, but finds herself drawn into his struggle, being someone with whom she has so much in common. Kendrick is sweet, and makes an appealing love interest. Angelica Huston also has a gem of a role as Adam's overbearing mother, who also has an Alzheimers afflicted husband to deal with. This role initially comes off as a tad cartoonish, but later in the film, we get another perspective, and by the end, I was convinced that if the film hits like it should, she could find herself nominated for best supporting actress. Philip Baker Hall also has a fantastic part, opposite Max Headroom-himself, Matt Frewer, as Adam's fellow, foul-mouthed cancer patient, who introduces him to the pleasure of hash cookies.

The only part in 50/50 that comes off a tad one-note is Howard as Levitt's transparent girlfriend, who we know is going to bail right from the first frame. She's a little too shrewish, but even she gets a nice scene towards the end that gives her character a little nuance.

50/50 could have be a remarkably sad film, but luckily director Jonathan Levine (who did THE WACKNESS) has a light enough touch that it never gets to that point- neither does it get maudlin, although don't be surprised if you let go of a few tears towards the end. I had a lump in my throat the last twenty-minutes. It's really the perfect blend of comedy and tragedy, and among the top-tier of films I've been lucky enough to catch at this year's TIFF. It's a wonderful film, and one that deserves to be appreciated.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+0
10:12PM on 10/16/2011
My wife and I went to see 50/50 this past weekend and we both loved it. My wife recommended seeing it, which was suprising given some recent and tragic history that I won't go too far into. Nevertheless, it was the first movie I've seen in years that made me genuinely sad and happy at the same time. Truly a masterpiece and one that I'll be owning when it comes out.
My wife and I went to see 50/50 this past weekend and we both loved it. My wife recommended seeing it, which was suprising given some recent and tragic history that I won't go too far into. Nevertheless, it was the first movie I've seen in years that made me genuinely sad and happy at the same time. Truly a masterpiece and one that I'll be owning when it comes out.
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+3
1:12AM on 10/01/2011
Went to see it tonight because of this review. Definitely loved it, thank you!
Went to see it tonight because of this review. Definitely loved it, thank you!
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3:45PM on 09/13/2011
I am glad it's good! I love Levine as a director, and the cast is great!

However, I do disagree with you about one thing- in "Fanboys" it's not that the cancer subplot didn't work, it's that the studio thought it to be too sad, and thus butchered the hell out of it. So the reason it doesn't currently work is because of that, and we'll never know if it would have had the studio had balls.
I am glad it's good! I love Levine as a director, and the cast is great!

However, I do disagree with you about one thing- in "Fanboys" it's not that the cancer subplot didn't work, it's that the studio thought it to be too sad, and thus butchered the hell out of it. So the reason it doesn't currently work is because of that, and we'll never know if it would have had the studio had balls.
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2:21PM on 09/13/2011

I can't wait..

To see this, looks funny and really touching. We need more funny touching movies. DOn't get me wrong I love my gore, and violent films and sci-fi fuck ups but once in awhile I need a film like this. Never take your life for granted ever.
To see this, looks funny and really touching. We need more funny touching movies. DOn't get me wrong I love my gore, and violent films and sci-fi fuck ups but once in awhile I need a film like this. Never take your life for granted ever.
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1:33PM on 09/13/2011

I agree 100%

Caught an advanced screening a couple months ago and it was perfect. It captured the comedy, tragedy and dullness of illness in your 20's (I myself faced major heart surgery two years ago so I was eerily familiar with certain hospital sequences)
Caught an advanced screening a couple months ago and it was perfect. It captured the comedy, tragedy and dullness of illness in your 20's (I myself faced major heart surgery two years ago so I was eerily familiar with certain hospital sequences)
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-11
1:30PM on 09/13/2011
Agreed. This was both a very tragic and very funny film, however, I felt that Rogen was unfortunately type-cast here. He was the same guy he is in every comedy, a jerk who really has a heart of gold, but with more vagina on the mind than an Gynecologist. Disagree about Fanboys. A great film to compare this one too and the cancer bit in that film worked.
Agreed. This was both a very tragic and very funny film, however, I felt that Rogen was unfortunately type-cast here. He was the same guy he is in every comedy, a jerk who really has a heart of gold, but with more vagina on the mind than an Gynecologist. Disagree about Fanboys. A great film to compare this one too and the cancer bit in that film worked.
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+2
10:27AM on 09/13/2011
So glad you enjoyed it! I saw an advanced screening and absolutely adored this film!
So glad you enjoyed it! I saw an advanced screening and absolutely adored this film!
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