5-Word 365 #186 – 50/50

I was going to watch this yesterday, but Realplayer went a bit fubar when I wasn’t looking. Luckily I had a contingency, but unfortunately it turned out to be a bit shit. Things went much better today, thanks for asking.

50/50

Skeletor: best dog name ever.

Twentysomething Adam goes to see his doctor after a persistent backache only to be told he has spinal cancer. His friend Kyle and girlfriend Rachael rally around him, with varying degrees of success, and he starts a tentative friendship with his trainee therapist. As the treatments take their toll, he tries to face the possibility that he may be dying much sooner than he would have expected. Fun with fire ensues.

This story of a young man who might not get much older is a refreshingly hilarious look at the effects of a disease that will touch all our lives in one way or another. The fact that screenwriter Will Reiser based the script on his own experience with cancer does sort of give the ending away, but that’s an easy one to forgive when everything else is as well-pitched as this.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam and Seth Rogen is Kyle and it is the relationship between these two that makes the whole movie. I’m not really a fan of the term “bromance”, but that is basically what this is. While Gordon-Levitt’s character is based (to a point) on the writer, Rogen is basically playing himself as he was one of Reiser’s friends during his own cancer battle (the two worked on Da Ali G Show together).

What I liked most about 50/50 is its refusal to be maudlin. Out of all the people in his life, Adam seems to be handling things better than anyone, except maybe Kyle as designated purveyor of “medical” marijuana. Of course this means that when Adam eventually does come close to breaking down it is all the more powerful, thanks in no small part to JGL’s strong performance in the lead. Rogen is as coarse and vulgar as usual, but with enough genuine emotion to take the sting out of it. If my best friend was struck down the way Adam is (Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid), I hope I would handle it just the way Kyle does.

DOGGY!!

The rest of the cast are all up to par with the leads. Anjelica Houston returns from the depths of Horrid Henry to class up the joint as Adam’s overbearing mother, and the preternaturally cute Anna Kendrick plays almost-Doctor Katherine McKay, Adam’s therapist who is almost as nervous as him, seeing as how he is only her third patient ever. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Rachael as a very realistic and believable character who is painted as the baddie when she is unable to handle Adam’s illness as well as she wants to, leading to an unfortunate lapse in judgment. Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer steal the show however as Adam’s chemo buddies. I feel like I’m just throwing names around randomly here, but the point is there is not a single duff note among the entire cast, while Jonathan Levine directs with restraint, letting the story tell itself without getting too flashy.

For what may seem like a bad-taste idea, this is a very successful examination of how a potentially life-threatening illness affects not just the sufferer themselves, but everyone around them. The humour is tempered with real heart, while there is a wonderful lack of hand-wringing from all concerned. Personally though, I miss the original working title: I’m With Cancer.

7 comments

  1. mhuard5 · July 5, 2012

    The scene where he is going into surgery almost got me to cry. As you said, it touches all our lives in some way, shape or form and that scene is quite powerful.

  2. todayiwatchedamovie · July 5, 2012

    One of my favorites I’ve reviewed so far. Glad you liked it, too

  3. AndyWatchesMovies · July 5, 2012

    My wife and I were on our way to see this in theaters and we never ended up going…Don’t remember why now. Sounds like something I’d enjoy watching, likely through teary eyes.
    I would have preferred the title I’m With Cancer as well.

  4. Nick Powell · July 7, 2012

    One of my favorite movies of 2011. I have loved Joseph Gordon Levitt for what seems like centuries (give or take a couple of decades) and I was thrilled to see him in mainstream heavy-dramatic role like this after he’s flown under the radar with stuff like Brick, Maniac, and Mysterious Skin. I was pleased to see the bro-chemistry between him and Rogen working so well, and even more pleased to see Rogen keep his own, without getting too over-the-top or out of place. Great movie, great review.

    Also, just because I tend to mention it whenever I mentioned Levitt (just because it’s awesome), you should check out his website, hitrecord.org. It’s a completely open and shared collaboration between writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc.

    • Ryan McNeely · July 7, 2012

      Thanks Nick.
      I’ve been over on his site a few times, but not as much as I might like. Brick is still one of my favourites, and I’m really looking forward to Looper.

  5. fernandorafael · July 9, 2012

    This one was amazing. Greatness all around: in the cast, the writing, the handling of sensitive situations. One of the Top 5 movies of last year.

    • Ryan McNeely · July 10, 2012

      WHen I heard about this film originally, I expected something a bit more overtly humorous but it turned out to be much more realistic, not to mention affecting.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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