Friday, 31 July 2015

50 / 50

Title:  50 / 50
Director: Jonathan Levine’s
Released: 2011

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Seth Rogan, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer

Plot: Adam (Gordon-Levitt) a Seattle based radio researcher, whose sole problems seem to be a lack of sex with his Artist girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard), getting to work on time and what seems like some minor back problems. It is soon the latter which throws his world into turmoil as he discovers that it is being caused by a malignant neurofibroma-sarcoma schwannoma (try saying that after a couple of drinks) a rare form of cancer with a survival rate of 50 / 50

Review: It’s probably safe to say that Cancer isn’t exactly the most prime of choices for comedy and judging by how noticeably empty the theatre was when I originally saw this film, it seems that a lot of people had seemingly come to the same conclusion. Still with a script by Will Reiser who himself battled and won his own fight against “The Big C” he has here crafted a fantastic script based on these experiences which certainly doesn’t tread on eggshells around such delicate subject matter.
While certainly a grim situation its one that Adam doesn’t have to fight this battle on his own, as he finds support from his long term friend and full term slacker Kyle (Rogan), who also frequently uses Adam’s conditions, to their…..well mainly his own sexual advantage to pick up girls, while also receiving support from trainee councillor Kate (Kendrick) and for whom he is only her third patient and from whose sessions an unlikely friendship begins.

Following Adam throughout his battle, he maintains a largely positive front despite soon discovering that his girlfriend is dealing with things slightly less well, clearly having signed on to be his girlfriend and not his nurse, while still feeling the pressure to stand by her man yet she refuses to attend his treatments allowing her own personal dislike of hospitals to take precedence and generally struggling to deal with the situation, leading to best friend Kyle proving to be the unlikely pillar of support even as Adam’s situation grows increasingly grim. Rogan here clearly drawing from his own experiences as the best friend of Will Resier you have a real sense that the role was written specifically for him to play, especially when so many of their shared experiences make reappearances here and while Rogan might be pulling out the same stoner chic which he has carved a living from over the last few years made his calling card, here it more of a throwback to “Knocked Up”  as he tones down his usual frantic energy to allow the natural humour to shine through.

The humour throughout never feels forced outside of the occasional outrageous one liners which are unsurprisingly given to Rogan, yet at the same time it feels wrong to mark this as a comedy, for humour is shown frequently here as shown more as a coping method of handling the situation, than anything resembling cheap laughs from which is essentially an extremely grim subject and it’s a black veined humour which runs throughout this film, which such memorable quips including “The more syllables it has, the worse it is” as joked by prostate cancer patient Mitch (Frewer) during a post chemo chat over hash macaroons a man who is almost like the living representation of acceptance, the fifth and final step on the “five stages of grief”, the stages of which Kate struggles to guide Adam through as she battles her own confidence issues, having still not earned her doctorate and not having the experience to provide all the answers with Kendrick herself describing this character as “the worst therapist in the world”.

With Kate and Kyle providing Adam with his main support Adam also finds himself receiving slightly less wanted support from his mother Diane played here by the always fantastic Anjelica Huston, who again makes such a small role still memorable, as she is already caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken husband yet still is insistent on dropping everything to move in and care for her son as well, while Adam’s attempts to subtly break it to her about his diagnosis by opening with the questionable “Have you ever seen Terms of Endearment?” easily being one of my favourite moments of the film.

Levine has assembled a great cast with Gordon-Levitt once again pulling off another memorable lead performance, while maintaining his indie charms despite recently making more mainstream movies as his profile has risen in the last few years and receives great support from the rest of the cast, who are all equally believable in their roles so that you actually care for these characters, especially during some of the darker moments and Levine effortlessly manages to shift the tone between these moments

“50/50” is yet another great film to come out of the fantastic year for cinema that 2011 turned out to be and while it’s subject matter left it to be truly only discovered once it was released on DVD, much like director Jonathan Levine’s previous indie gem “The Wackness” and again like my review for “Drive” I feel I that I’m truly not doing it justice with this review, even more so when I came home from having watched the film and tried to explain to my wife about the film, only to be greeted with confusion over how a film about cancer could be both funny and not drowned in the usual over emotional tones and as such I can really only urge you to go and watch it yourself to truly understand just how good this film really is.


  1. This film does a perfect job balancing the humor with the very serious struggle with cancer. I laughed and cried so hard during this movie. It's one of JGL's best roles and one of my favorite of Rogen's too. I love the reveal about how much he really cares about his friend even if he has a hard time exposing those emotions. This is such a lovely movie.

    1. Your right the balance is perfect here and proves that Rogen can do more serious films, rather than stoner comedies. I'm a big apologist for Rogen though as I've loved his work since I saw "Knocked Up" while I'm one of the few people who actually liked "The Green Hornet".


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