By ERIN KENDERISH
“50/50” is undoubtedly one of the most realistic looks at cancer seen on the silver screen. Based on the true story of writer Will Reiser, the flick follows Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer that has a fifty percent survival rate. He deals with his illness with the help of his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who at first seems to only view the diagnosis as an easy way to score chicks.
Throughout the movie we witness Adam go through various emotional extremes as he slowly comes to terms with his diagnosis, and awareness of his own mortality.
Anna Kendrick provides a pivotal supporting role as Adam’s young inexperienced therapist, Katherine, who finds herself growing personally invested with Adam. “50/50” is a charming film that manages to walk the fine line in bringing humor to an otherwise depressing situation.
Rogen and Levitt instantly command an amazing onscreen chemistry; they don’t need to do much to convince you of the longevity of their friendship.
After the diagnosis, Adam seals up his emotions, when pressed for details he says “I’m fine.” But Kyle acts as the emotional billboard for the duo. When he first learns of Adam’s cancer he repeatedly chants, “I’m going to throw up, I’m going to throw up” and immediately comes up with a list of celebrities who’ve beat cancer, “Neil Armstrong keeps getting it!”
Angelica Huston effectively portrays Adam’s smothering mother, consumed by the care of his father with Alzheimer’s.
Bryce Dallas Howard does an impressive job as Adam’s self-centered painter girlfriend, Rachael.
Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer are amazing as two fellow chemotherapy patients who help teach Adam what love and support through a life altering illness really means.
Director Jonathan Levine brings Reiser’s script to vivid life; nothing shown in the film is frivolous. The dialogue is snappy, but realistic. The comic and emotional timing in “50/50” is impeccable; one minute you’ll be laughing and the next you will be tearing up.
Never fear, there is no tasteless humor. So those worried about a film that demeans or makes light of cancer won’t have to worry as the subject is approached with respect and dignity.
Don’t go to this film if you are expecting any of Rogen’s usual fare. It’s a far cry from “Knocked Up” or “Pineapple Express.” Don’t be surprised if you see this film nominated for awards this upcoming season.