FilmSeptember 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Review: Is 50/50 Really 50 Out of 50?

Joseph Gordon–Levitt delivers a heartfelt performance in this unique dramedy.

It’s a little startling just how laugh–out–loud funny this film about cancer is.

In 50/50, Adam (Gordon–Levitt) is a 20–something guy dealing with a sudden diagnosis of aggressive spinal cancer. His composure in the face of such a daunting disease is what makes Gordon–Levitt, and this film, so endearing and compelling to watch.

Unsurprisingly, most of the real laughs come from wise–ass Kyle (Rogen), Adam’s medical marijuana–abusing best friend. Although Kyle isn’t a particular departure from Rogen’s typical character (in fact, Kyle is actually based on Rogen in real life), he shows a tenderness towards the end that makes this role stand out.

In a mostly unimpressive supporting cast, Anjelica Huston stands out as Adam’s overbearing mother. Both Adam’s girlfriend and his therapist (Bryce Dallas Howard and Anna Kendrick, respectively) come off as annoying and undeveloped.

It is a credit to director Jonathan Levine that this film, which had infinite sap potential, chronicles a young man’s battle with cancer in a realistic and deadpan way. The matter–of–fact humor is a refreshing take on an often formulaic topic. Though 50/50 is decidedly lighthearted, there are surprisingly touching moments, especially towards the end of the film, that give the characters greater depth. The pace of the film is slow, but unexpected laughs throughout keep the audience engaged.

Perhaps one of the reasons why 50/50 rings so true is that it is based on the life of its screenwriter, Will Reiser. Comedy writer Reiser takes on a delicate issue but is able to perfectly tread the fine line between apathy and heart.

This is a film that will make you laugh (a lot) and cry (a little) — but then, what is a movie of this nature without a few tears?

50/50
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Angelica Houston
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
See if you liked: Funny People
R, 99 min
3/5 Stars

 
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