When one hears that Seth Rogen is starring in a new bromance comedy, one doesn’t necessarily expect the next sentence to be, “It’s about cancer.” In 50/50, Seth Rogen plays Kyle, the dutiful best friend of Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt), who has just learned that he has a malignant spine tumor and a 50 percent chance of survival.
Despite the bleak subject matter, which perfectly matches the bleak Seattle weather in the film, 50/50 is a very funny movie. The very first scene elicits a chuckle from the audience as we see a slightly pale, but healthy looking Joseph Gordon Levitt refuse to jay walk across an empty street as other pedestrians pass him. The audience then meets Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard), Adam’s cold and withholding girlfriend, and Kyle, who provides the majority of the comic relief, through jokes about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s baldness and Rachel.
Adam is careful to the point of ridiculousness. He doesn’t drive, because he says that car accidents are the fifth leading cause of death. When he finds out that he has an unpronounceable cancer in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, he says, “But I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I recycle.” There are moments, especially toward the end of the film, that are heart wrenching. But these moments are scattered between humorous ones. To mirror the scene in which Adam walks through the cold, unfriendly hospital hallway to his first chemotherapy session is the scene in which he walks back through the hallway, high from pot macaroons that the old men in his chemo session gave him.
Each and every actor in 50/50 delivers a stellar performance. Anjelica Huston, who plays Adam’s overbearing mother, joins Rogen and the rest of the cast in making 50/50 both touching and hilarious. Anna Kendrick, nominated for an Oscar for her role in Up in the Air, again exhibits her superb talent in 50/50 as Adam’s therapist, Katherine. Katherine is only twenty-four and in the midst of getting her doctorate, and isn’t quite sure what to tell Adam, who is only her third patient ever. Kendrick makes the audience empathize and eventually fall in love with her character.
But Gordon Levitt in particular deserves praise for wonderfully accomplishing the difficult task of portraying a dying twenty-seven-year-old. He is never cheesy or over dramatic, revealing his emotions through snide remarks to his mother and the occasional snipe at his therapist. Overall, Gordon Levitt is solemn, but not depressing — he is able to laugh at himself and at Kyle.
The film is based on a true story about a friend of Seth Rogen’s, Will Reiser, who wrote the film. Rogen explained in an interview on The Daily Show last week, that the reason they made 50/50 was because he and his friends felt like no movie existed that expressed what they had gone through. The filmmakers definitely succeeded in creating something unprecedented. They told a story that needed to be told, and ensured that the audience would leave the theater smiling with the knowledge that life goes on.
Besides dragging a little in the middle and one bit of unnecessary dialogue, 50/50 is perfect. Not only did the actors give award-worthy performances, but the soundtrack and the cinematography were both phenomenal — 50/50 does a fantastic job of fully taking advantage of film’s ability to synthesize sound and images, which so many films don’t do.
50/50 is the kind of movie that restores one’s faith in the film industry. It is immensely comforting to know that, even while the Final Destination franchise continues to exist, carefully crafted original stories are still making it on screen. If you’re wondering what movies to check out during Fall Break, 50/50 is absolutely worth your time.