Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall
I recently revisited the movie 50 / 50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. Now for anyone who hasn’t watched this yet, this may sound like a depressing drama full of patronising clichés. In fact, “50/50” is a comedy of sorts and handles the subject with the right balance of enlightenment, inspiration, hope and care.
It’s always going to be difficult for any writer to angle for a comedic side to a story based on a cancer diagnosis, but Will Reiser who wrote “50/50” handles the topic with care and believe me the funny parts are funny and along the way there are some beautiful and surprisingly tender scenes between the characters.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this knack of being a very likeable guy no matter what role he plays. Adam is a good guy who writes for a living for a local radio program and lives with his girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard). We find through conversation that the relationship is faltering and it’s really only when Adam is diagnosed that the couple become a bit closer to each other although it is short lived when Adam’s friend Kyle (Rogen) discovers Rachael is being unfaithful to Adam and captures this on his Cellphone. Bryce Dallas Howard although has limited time in the movie adapts very well as the girlfriend who bails on her Boyfriend when the tough gets going.
Gordon-Levitt portrays the role of Adam as a very subdued and content guy but as the story unfolds his temperament begins to unravel slightly when he begins to learn of his illness and dealing with the breakdown in his relationship. Gordon-Levitt is very subtle in his anxieties of his struggles and you only get to realise this more so in his therapy sessions that he has been attending with Katherine (Kendrick) these scenes at first are portrayed awkwardly and both actors really play off each other well in the situation.
Anna Kendrick as Katherine is a great choice of casting and plays the role perfectly as an inexperienced therapist (Adam is only her third patient) But by the time the movie concludes, she really comes into her own and all those little quirks she has early on are away as she begins to develop a closeness with Adam and understands him more.
Angelica Huston plays Adams mother Diane. We are introduced to Dianne when Adam decides to let his mother know of his condition and although she comes off as a little controlling and dominant to a degree we learn that her husband and Adams father Richard (Serge Houde) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Diane is really just trying to hold things together. Huston although is in very limited scenes is very powerful in them and no more so in the scene when she reveals she has been seeking counselling herself to deal with her Son’s illness. It’s a very touching scene and this is where the writers find the balance and trust the audience will accept the seriousness of the situation in a “comedy”. I always believe there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and it is really evident in “50/50”
Although Serge Houde as Adam’s father doesn’t have much to do it really is handled well between the relationship with Diane and his son Adam. Even more so when Adam is about to go into theatre as a last ditch chance to save his life. I’m telling you, get the hankies ready as Houde portrays a man who might not see his son again and looks lost and sad not knowing what is going on. I’m not really selling this movie as a comedy am I?
Seth Rogen for me is hit or miss. I always felt this with certain comedic actors that sometimes too much is…… too much. Hey I felt that way about John Candy sometimes so don’t judge me! Rogen in “50/50” does what he does best. He portrays the bumbling drunken friend that although comes across as trying to consume Adam’s life and giving him bad advice is at heart a good guy. Probably for about 85% of screen time Kyle is a pain in the ass and downright irritating but Rogen manages to even make that screen time funny and the payoff to his character is in the last third of the movie as we discover his insecurities, anxieties and a caring side to him and Adam’s conditions really has effected him.
Writer Reiser should be commended for these really fleshed out characters and Levine (Director) keeping the flow of the movie interesting and the pacing consistent. This is evident in most scenes where the dialogue is consuming the screen and Adam’s hospital visits introduce us to two cancer patients in Mitch and Alan portrayed by the brilliant pairing of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. The chemistry between the three actors is balanced and adds light to the difficult storyline.
“50/50″ is a well written and directed film that has a strong cast and a great chemistry between them. Although released over 6 years ago the story and the characters is what makes the film rewatchable and enjoyable to revisit every few years. I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it as I feel the right blend of comedy and drama will keep you interested. Highly Recommended.