D: Jonathan Levine. DP: Terry Stacey. W: Will Reiser. Starring: Joseph Gordan-Levitt/Seth Rogen/Anna Kendrick/Bryce Dallas Howard/Angelica Houston/Serge Houde/Matt Fewer/Philip Baker Hall.
Having seen this film in an early screening over a month ago now, I have given myself some time to ruminate on it. Not only to critique its cinematic value, but also its wider message and challenge of tackling the role of cancer in young peoples lives.
Overall, 50/50 is a success. Based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer, the film follows Adam (Joseph Gordan-Levitt) diagnosis and treatment with the disease and the evolution of his self and relationships. Reiser gives us a young man whose so cautious he won’t cross the street without the correct light and almost pathologically naive about the state of the fire between him and his girlfriend. Luckily, Gordan-Levitt is the right amount of charming, disarming, and real here to never allow the script to feel overly sentimental or silly. Gordan-Levitt (I’ve been a fan for years) gives the film all the right colors, stages and tantrums involved with growing up and in his case, facing his own mortality.
Gordan-Levitt is nicely supported by Seth Rogen who plays his best friend Kyle. Although I would love to see Rogen out of these dopey roles for good, he does his part to bring an honesty to his role of someone trying to deal with the possibility of a loss in their life and still being a friend when that person is sick. Reiser’s script helps him here and their relationship, Gordan-Levit’s parents involvement is very small, takes forefront, and rightly so as they have excellent chemistry. Bryce Dallas Howard opens up 50/50 as Gordan-Levitt’s “devoted” girlfriend. Sexy and quirky she is fine here, though ultimately the female role of the film is in Anna Kendrick.
Kendrick, who I have not been sold on yet, plays Gordan-Levitt’s therapist who, of course, ends up being a graduate student working on her thesis. Their scenes together work well on so many levels as not only an entertaining portrayal of someone new to therapy, but the dynamics of any relationship when agism and sexual tension are evident. Kendrick is very likable here and allows the audience to simaltanouesly root for Gordan-Levitt’s Adam, while also coming to grips with the dire possiblity that he may lose his battle with this disease.
I can only hope that Summit Entertainment does well enough to get people into the seats to see this film. I think its high time for the average movie goer to support smaller well made stories and realize that seeking out these movies will hopefully help then eventually to be the norm for all. And it will be hard for anyone sitting through 50/50 not to laugh, cry and feel the overwhelming duty we have to cancer patients to help them fight this disease any way we can.