Quick Review: 50/50 (dir. by Johnathan Levine)

This is the worst review I’ll ever write. I’ll admit to that up front. This is a highly biased review.

I recently underwent a colonoscopy for what doctors refer to as “excessive bleeding”, which your body isn’t really supposed to do. Part of this also involves a biopsy of tissue to determine if it’s cancerous. I’m still due to find out what was found (because I’ve been dancing around going back as much as I have writing this review), but there’s a sense of dread in knowing that your life can change with just a few sentences from a doctor.  That, coupled with the knowledge that my mom underwent chemo for Lung Cancer and a friend who’s also living with it made 50/50 a hard film to sit through at some points.

I saw the movie on Friday Night, and literally spent the entire weekend with my laptop on my lap with Scrivener open, trying to get this written. The only reason it’s happening now is because I started admitting why I didn’t and wrote a paragraph. If I stop now, this is going to be another Sucker Punch, a film I was going to review when it came out, but refrained from doing so because it hit a little too close to home.

I walked into 50/50 expecting a heavy handed story along the lines of either the last half of Beaches or My Life with Michael Keaton. After all, the story deals with Cancer, which we all know is very serious. I actually left the film glancing at the movie schedule, looking to find out how soon the next showing was. It was a little later than I hoped, so I headed home. If it were any earlier, I would have gone right back. I laughed so much that I might have scared a few of the people sitting in the back of the theatre, and was thankful for the extra tissues I took with me when I cried.

Based on a true story of the film’s writer, Will Reiser, 50/50 is the story of  Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who goes through life making all the right choices. He eats right, jogs regularly and crosses when the walk sign is clear. He loves his girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), and his best friend Kyle (played by Seth Rogen) helps him laugh through it all. After experiencing some pain in his back, he heads to the doctor, only to discover that he has developed a rare form of Cancer. The actual moment of awareness when he’s told is done so well that I had to bite my lip. Once you know the truth of things, you can’t return to a state where you “don’t” know, and I’ll admit that shook me.

The greatest part I loved about 50/50 was that it was more a story about the Support Groups that keep us afloat than it was about the problem of the illness itself. There are just some things in the world that you shouldn’t go through alone. Each person in Adam’s circle had a different reaction to what was occurring, but Seth Rogen’s character was by far the best, choosing to not allow Adam to wallow too much in what was happening to him.

Adam is assigned a therapist in the form of Kate McKay (Anna Kendrick), who tries to get him to relax and explain how he’s feeling, to which in most cases, he’d say “I’m fine.” It’s amazing how quickly and easily we can say that phrase to deflect every other emotion we may be feeling, and the writing in this film was good enough to play on that angle as well. His mother (Angelica Houston) wants to help her son a little too much, but Mothers can be that way, I suppose.

Just because this happens to be a story about illness doesn’t mean that it has to be non stop gloom and doom. There were a number of scenes that were laugh out loud funny, particularly those with Rogen. It’s Gordon-Levitt, however, who really carries the film. He does a great job here, and it’s a shame with the weekend over that it seems the film won’t overshadow either The Lion King or A Dolphin’s Tale. It would be interesting if the film has enough legs to last over the next few weeks. It definitely deserves a viewing.

2 responses to “Quick Review: 50/50 (dir. by Johnathan Levine)

  1. Mixing humor and painful subject matter is, naturally, very difficult. The beauty of this movie is that it does so with ease, especially with such good actors in these roles as well. Good review. Check out my review when you get a chance.


  2. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Picks For The Best 26 Films of 2011 | Through the Shattered Lens

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