Saturday, July 9, 2016

Movie Review: "50/50" (2011)

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Director: Jonathan Levine
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

A 27-year old man is diagnosed with cancer and now must face his own mortality, as well as the mental and physical stress that come with treatment. 

"50/50" is directed by Jonathan Levine and is written by Will Reiser, based on his own true life battle with cancer. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a 27-year old man whose life is turned upside down when he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on his spine. The film also stars Seth Rogen as Adam's best friend Kyle, Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam's girlfriend Rachael, Anna Kendrick as Adam's therapist Katherine, and Anjelica Huston as Adam's mom Diane. Unlike most films starring Seth Rogen, this is not really a comedy. Rather, this film brilliantly mixes the darkness of Adam's battle as well as the overall subject of cancer with a rarely seen, slightly less bleak angle. Yes, what he's going through is hard to watch and painful to live, but it has many moments of humor where people joke around with each other and does so in a way that never makes light his illness or shies away from the true struggle of the situation. Before his diagnosis, Adam was mostly happy in his work, with his girlfriend, and in his life, but after, it has placed him in a situation where he must seriously face his mortality, a hard enough task at any age, but that much more jarring for someone who was expecting to have so much more life ahead of him. Always by his side is Kyle, Adam's best friend who uses Adam's disease to help pick up women, which might sound awful, but Adam is fully aware of it and mostly gives Kyle his blessing. His girlfriend Rachael is far from supportive and is rarely even helpful when it comes to his treatment, opting to take him to chemotherapy but remain in the car the entire time because she doesn't want to "mix worlds" or "energies." Adam's mother Diane is very clingy during this tough time, but what mother wouldn't want to do anything she could to ease her child's suffering? Adam has a habit of ignoring her phone calls, too tired and too sick to deal with his mother's fawning.

It can be hard for us to watch movies about those going through a battle with cancer because we know all too well from our own experiences how hard that can be to watch someone go through such a terrible illness. Though it does bring the tears steadily and swiftly, "50/50" offers a very honest, very well meaning look at that struggle. It doesn't only focus on the person afflicted with the disease, but also shows how it can affect those closest to the person who is sick. It's also able to show how an illness can make people look at you differently and tiptoe around you and your life. Also, though we do watch Adam fight for his life through chemotherapy, we also see him get physically angry and upset at his diagnosis and prognosis, something a lot of films shy away from showcasing. There is one very powerful scene where he kicks Kyle out of his own car and just sits there and screams at the top of his lungs, violently hitting the steering wheel repeatedly until it looks like it hurts. Isn't this the response you would have? We know we would, and it's refreshing to see this level of anger at something that is so maddening and incomprehensible.

This film would not be nearly as good without the help of its stellar cast. Each individual person brings something to the table. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both stoic and standoffish, tightly-wound but also afraid as Adam. Seth Rogen offers the comic relief most of the time, but he is able to play opposite of Gordon-Levitt well as the best friend of a man struggling for his life. Anjelica Huston is more limited here, but her powerhouse acting shines through as a depressed but steadfast mother. Anna Kendrick is a very young therapist just beginning her career, having only seen two patients before Adam. As he learns how to live with his illness, she is learning right alongside him, trying to comfort him through very stiff medical school coaching and awkward arm touches. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick have great, believable chemistry together in their capacity as patient/therapist, as do Rogen and Gordon-Levitt as best friends.

"50/50" is the kind of film that will run you through the gamut of emotions as it takes you on a roller coaster of highs and lows, laughter and tears. It's difficult to watch due to its subject matter, but it is most certainly worth a watch due to its poignant humor during times of tragedy and sickness, its excellent performances, and its true to reality feel.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"


  1. Great review...I absolutely applaud this movie. It was so genuine and absolutely heartfelt in it's modern approach to cancer. It brought me to tears by the end...such an underrated movie.

    1. It brought us to tears as well! The realistic feels really distinguishes it above many of the other films about cancer and illness. Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do a tremendous job here!! Wish more people talked about this one!!