Directed by Jonathan Levine.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston.
After being diagnosed with cancer, a twenty-something guy fights to beat the disease.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in this comedy based on true events written by Will Reiser. In his twenties, Reiser beat cancer with the help of real-life best friend Seth Rogen.
The story follows Adam (Gordon-Levitt), a young man who discovers he has a 50% survival rate of spinal cancer. Part of the 'buddy-movie' sub-genre, the plot is also largely based around the relationship and support of best friend Kyle (Rogen).
The real-life element of 50/50 gives a great sense of realism and authenticity, which enables the dialogue between the two friends to be naturalistic. The characters use comedy as a coping mechanism throughout the film; this softens the blow of the subject at hand and also makes the film an enjoyable watch.
The plot of 50/50 is well constructed; it does not fall into a typical Hollywood plot line. The title itself implies that the lead role has 50% chance of survival, which means that the audience cannot predict how the film will end. This also injects a sense of realism into the film, as the audience are as uncertain of Adam’s fate as he is.
Gordon-Levitt provides an emotional performance and delivers a realistic view into the experiences of a young cancer patient. The audience is carried along Adam’s journey as he adopts different coping methods and relies on other characters for support. Gordon-Levitt is successful in placing the audience into his characters’ psyche and his emotions become more intense as the film progresses.
Despite Gordon-Levitt’s impressive performance, it is arguable that Anna Kendrick, who plays Adam’s endearing trainee psychologist, steals the spotlight. Kendrick portrays a charming young doctor, who overcompensates with professional jargon and textbook coping techniques, for being inexperienced. Kendrick plays the ideal girl next-door and shows off her hilarious, dry sense of humour faultlessly.
The female cast continues to impress as Bryce Dallas Howard plays the perfect modern villain as Adam’s passive-aggressive girlfriend, Rachael. The ever-fabulous Anjelica Huston showcases her wonderful comedy acting, as Adam’s erratic, over-the-top Mother.
Seth Rogen brought a bit of déjà vu, as he continued to recycle his role as “lad layabout”. Although I found this irritating at times and he reused similar jokes and dialogue from previous roles in films such as The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008), his character was apt for the role as the “every-man’s” best friend and the comedic interlude.
Rogen does provide some laugh-out-loud moments, but he is also responsible for bringing an “American Pie-esque” feel to the film. Throughout, Rogen’s character Kyle tries to get Adam “laid” by making women pity him.
He then uses Adam’s illness as an icebreaker, as he attempts to dupe women into sleeping with him through projecting a heroic image of himself as Adam’s sensitive carer. Although this was used to ease the seriousness of the film, I felt that it cheapened a well-constructed storyline and alienated female audiences.
Despite this storyline pothole, 50/50 presents a bank of captivating comedic and dramatic performances. Credit is due to the makers of 50/50 for handling such a hard-hitting subject so boldly and sensitively. 50/50 is extremely entertaining and heartfelt, without veering towards the typical Hollywood “weepy” style.