Director: Jonathan Levine
Cancer sucks. There’s no denying this. It’s especially devastating when the disease strikes a young person, someone who hasn’t even come close to living a full, healthy life.
This is the story of 50/50; the title, naturally, meaning the odds of beating this form of cancer.
Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old healthy male, the type of guy who doesn’t drink or smoke, and one who regularly jogs throughout his hometown of Seattle. He works at the National Public Radio, has a long-time girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a devoted best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen). By all accounts, he is a normal dude who is enjoying life.
Lately he has been having lower back pain. It’s a minor hindrance at first, but the pain never goes away and starts to get worse. He goes to the doctor and hears one of the scariest words in the English language: CANCER. As in, he has a rare form of spinal cancer that has a 50/50 survival rate. Commence shock.
Adam’s only real option is to undergo chemotherapy in an attempt to reduce the tumor. He also sees a psychologist, the very inexperienced Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick), who goes through the protocol on how to help cancer patients. In a nutshell, his world has spun upside down.
As he tells his friends and family, they all react differently. Adam’s mother (Angelica Huston) naturally panics and wants to move in with her son, but she already has her hands full with her husband (Serge Houde), who has Alzheimer’s disease. Adam’s girlfriend, Rachael, has a hard time coping with the illness and does not act in the most appropriate manner. His buddy Kyle is sympathetic, but frequently pushes him to use cancer as a way of getting laid.
It’s obviously a difficult situation for all involved. 50/50 chronicles all of this, showing equally the plights, feelings and emotions from Adam, as well as everyone in his life. This is a battle for all of them.
With such a dark subject matter, 50/50 could easily be nothing more than depressing. While the film certainly has a bleak feel to it, there are plenty of well-timed moments of humor to break up the sadness. This is largely thanks to Seth Rogen, who is much-welcomed comic relief, even though his character often acts like a complete knucklehead.
While Rogen helps with the laughs, Joseph Gordon-Levitt absolutely shines in the lead role. This guy sure has come a long way since his 3rd Rock from the Sun days, hasn’t he? His portrayal of Adam is amazing, as he flawlessly shows us the entire gamut of emotions that are natural to the cancer process. Shock, anger, sadness, acceptance. Hell, he even shaved his head on camera for the role. Yeah, he was great in Inception and (500) Days of Summer, but I think this is going to be his coming out party.
I would be remiss not to mention the performances from Philip Baker Hall (Bookman!) and Matt Frewer, two fellow cancer patients that Adam meets during chemotherapy. Hall, in particular, is a favorite of mine, and it was great to see him in this small, but important, role.
Movies like 50/50 are a rare breed. This is a film that will tug on your heartstrings just as often as make you laugh. I am not the kind of guy who cries during movies, but I was holding back major tears during this. Everything felt so REAL, and it’s absolutely tragic that people have to go through something like cancer. 50/50 is one of the best movies to come out so far this year. See it if you haven’t already.