Saturday, March 28, 2015

Indie Review: 50/50 (2011)

     This Cancer Comedy Has More Than A '50/50' Chance At Being Amazing
        In my opinion, cancer dramas, or any disease dramas, are a tricky beast. They can either rely on its subject matter to pluck sentiment out of its audience (*cough* The Judge *cough*) or not sugarcoat the details without being too sentimental (My Sister's Keeper). But leave it to Will Rieser, who is a cancer survivor himself, to have an even more difficult task of creating a cancer comedy. But thankfully, he has found the right balance of laughs at the right moment and the right amount of sentiment.

          50/50 follows the story of a 27-year old man named Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor lodged in his spine. The rest of the film then follows his experience with battling cancer with the help of his closest friend Kyle (Seth Rogen)

       I'll start off by discussing the characters. What I loved about how they were written is that it feels like they are real people. You have Adam, the demure cancer patient who becomes more and more irritable towards those around him. There is also his more outgoing friend Kyle, who tries to get him to live in the now, his mother who tries to force her way into his life, his therapist Katherine, who realizes her job might be more than she can handle, and Adam's girlfriend Rachael, who feels that his condition might be more than she can handle.

       All of the actors excel in their respective parts. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives his best and most three-dimensional performance to date as Adam as he starts off somewhat optimistic yet uses his smile to hide his pain then eventually lets his condition get the best of him. Seth Rogen surprises as Kyle, who seems rather immature yet only wants to see his friend live in the moment. Anna Kendrick also excels as Katherine and she and Gordon-Levitt have such effortless chemistry. Even though Anjelica Huston has limited screentime, whenever she does appear, she leaves quite an impression. Bryce Dallas Howard is also very good and even though she played a slightly bitchy character like in The Help, which came out the same year, here she plays a mean girl with different dimensions and complexities.

       I also want to give points to the screenwriter Will Reiser. Apparently, this is based off of his real-life battle with cancer and it really shows because this film didn't feel scripted. The characters feel like real people and not only that, but the film has a nice balance between comedy and drama as Adam tries to make light out of his tough situation while also trying to overcome the harsh and painful struggle. The character that Seth Rogen plays is also based off of himself as he helped Reiser get through his condition and it shines through here as the chemistry between Rogen and Gordon-Levitt feels authentic. The whole film felt authentic and I loved how Reiser didn't go overboard with sentiment or use the disease as a punchline. Anyone who wants to become a screenwriter should definitely watch this and take notes.


Overall, 50/50 is a chuckle-inducing yet heart wrenching portrait of the writer's battle against cancer. The screenwriting is authentic, the performances are well-rounded, and its realism may be raw, but not to the point where you have to look away from the screen.

      Would I Recommend It?:
   Absolutely. If you know somebody who is battling, or battled, cancer, you should have them give this one a watch.

Grade: A+