We’re all going to die. This is not news to anyone, let alone those with enough cognitive capacity to access the internet and read a review for a movie about cancer. In fact, the internet has done much to alter our views of death. Not only do we know that we will one day croak, but we can obsess over every little ailment we suffer because the internet links it as a symptom to some fatal disease. Got a headache? It could be a brain tumor. Got a stomach ache? Could be a bowel obstruction. Feeling fatigued and nauseous all the time? Could be HIV. Maybe we’re too informed these days, but having these multitude of diseases constantly in our collective consciousness allows us to view them more often in lighter terms. This is what we get in 50/50, a sympathetic-yet-humorous look at a subject that epitomizes the term deadly serious.
50/50 is about Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man in his twenties living and working in Seattle. He has a seemingly dependable but distant girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), a less-than-mature but loyal best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen) and a parental unit made up of an overbearingly concerned mother (Anjelica Huston) and a father (Serge Houde) suffering from Alzheimer’s. In short order, Adam is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer and must begin chemotherapy immediately in order to fight it. Adam breaks the news to those closest to him, each dealing with it in their own unique way, and is forced to deal with it himself, both on a physical and mental level. Along the way he meets new people who try to help him cope – such as psychiatrist-in-training Katie (Anna Kendrick) and two older cancer patients, Alan (Phillip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer) – and learns who he can truly lean on when he loses faith in everyone, even himself.
In the last few years Joseph Gordon-Levitt has arrived as an acting force in Hollywood, proving his chops time and again in works like Brick, (500) Days of Summer and Inception. This trend continues in 50/50, where he valiantly leads a remarkable cast. While there isn’t a bad performance of note in the film, notable accolades belong to Seth Rogen, who reminds us how great he can be with the comedically meaty supporting role of Kyle, and Bryce Dallas Howard, who’s able to play the relatively stereotypical role of Adam’s objectionable significant other with a level of sincerity that makes the character pop (in other words, yes, I believe Opie’s little girl has broken her fair share of hearts).
The tone of the film is hard to pin down from scene to scene. Considering the heaviness of the subject matter and the lightheartedness the comedy tries to implement, it’s not hard to see why this is the case. Perhaps the biggest compliment to 50/50 is that it is never bogged down trying to make the audience feel one way or another. There are moments meant to make you laugh, moments meant to make you sad, moments meant to make you quietly say “fuck yeah” or “fuck you” to yourself, but mostly they are open to audiences interpretation. This fluidity of the tone makes for an interesting viewing experience as part of an audience, but gives it more of an individualized, personal touch.
As much as the ever-changing tone acts as a positive, however, it also acts as the films biggest negative as well. As good as the film is, it doesn’t do much to lend itself to multiple viewings in my book. The comedic moments are too infrequent and un-dynamic for it to make the list of go-to comedy titles and the drama falls a little too short of an ability to stick with the viewer strongly after watching (that is outside of one moment near the end which, fair warning, will probably result in some leaky eyes).
In all, 50/50 is a good film that happens to lack a few key elements that would make it anything more than that. Watch 50/50 movie right now on Putlocker.