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A 2011 movie directed by Jonathan Levine.

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The Funniest Film About Cancer You'll Ever See

  • Oct 13, 2011

“50/50” isn’t a movie about cancer. “50/50” isn’t a film about a bromance or how a family rallies together in the end despite their differences. Instead, “50/50” takes on the concept of how normal people react, whether positively or negatively, to one of the most tragic diseases of our time affecting someone with their entire life ahead of them. The movie comes from the perspective of Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a 27-year-old radio journalist who is slammed with the reality that he has a very serious type of cancer, a cancer with a slim 50% survival rate. But the film isn’t just about him; it also puts a great deal of emphasis on those that surround him. This includes his stoner/slacker best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who shows Adam the many ways he can “take advantage” of his disease, his “supportive” girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard who has the burden of taking care of Adam thrown upon her, as well as his delightfully naïve psychiatrist (Anna Kendrick). Against his will, this also includes his “overbearing” mother (Angelica Huston) who already faces the task of taking care of her husband (Serge Houde). “50/50” is done a lot of favors by its exceptionally strong cast, led in part by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who carries a lot of the drama mainly centered around his character with ease, and has enough charisma, wit, and utter likability to help the film balance out the film’s constant juggling act of comedy and sorrow. Unconverted Seth Rogen fans won’t find much to like here, as he’s still essentially himself, but to someone like myself that’s never really grown tired of his shtick, he’s still a hilarious addition to the mix. As far as other note-worthy performances go, Bryce Dallas Howard has a pretty standard part, Anna Kendrick makes the film considerably more adorable every frame she’s in, and both Matt Frewer and Phillip Baker Hall have small, yet phenomenal parts in the film as Adam’s much older chemotherapy partners. Where “50/50” really finds its strength is how it manages to earn its humor and laughs throughout the film. The movie never flinches or backs down in its portrayal of the terrible disease its protagonist is suffering from. Almost like a slingshot there are these hilarious moments where Kyle is teaching Adam how to get girls out of sympathy for his cancer or introducing him to the world of medicinal marijuana, and then it springs back to how much this disease has uprooted his life and the lives of those around him, along with those very real consequences. There are several scenes where it’s almost overwhelming how desperate and one-sided this struggle has become, and it’s obviously where the movie finds its most dramatic moments and the best times to get the tears going. It’s not even as much of a spoiler to say you don’t know Adam’s fate (being 50/50) until the film’s last few minutes. However, in truly miraculous fashion almost against the odds defying the fear and sadness, “50/50” uses these same moments for some of its best comedic moments. “50/50” takes advantage of your lack of hope and vulnerability to fear and brings you to guttural, hysteric laughter because it recognizes how much we want and need to laugh in that kind of situation. There’s a beautiful moment towards the end of the film where Adam finally has to confront the “now or never” moment of his disease. Where other films would be crippling you with sadness, a clichéd inspirational song and a corny monologue explaining how “everything’s going to work out”, “50/50” reminded me of the harsh and very relatable reality of it all, and then somehow gets you to laugh along with it. I found myself laughing hysterically while still wiping tears away from my eyes; it was one of the most profound and touching movie-going experiences of my life. By the end of the film when it’s finally revealed how each character has met the challenge of Adam’s cancer, you gain an incredible understanding of each character and what the whole movie’s been about. “50/50” is a very special film; it recognizes the inherent fear and cruel, unsympathetic reality of cancer and it reminds you of that reality sporadically throughout the movie. However, instead of wallowing in the sadness, it does the impossible, and makes you laugh at the cancer and at the fear of it all. It’s a poignant triumph of humor over death, comedy over sadness; it’s one of the funniest films of the year but also one of the most emotionally resonant and powerful I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, all complimented by it’s fantastic cast and of course a healthy, if not at times raunchy, sense of humor. If anything else, “50/50” is worth seeing on the merit alone that it finally allows you to call a “cancer movie” hilarious.

50 out of 50/5 out of 5

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October 13, 2011
I've been thinking about checking this one out. I've had some friends and family members that have battled cancer, some have won and some have lost, so I wanted to make sure that it was funny enough to keep me from being a blubbering mess and ruining other people's viewing pleasure. It sounds like it does that well enough. Great review :)
More 50/50 reviews
review by . November 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Odds Are Good That You Would Love This Film!
Movies that go into subjects that have a bleak premise such as dealing with a terminal disease are often easily dismissed as something that can be depressing and it is absolutely so easy to go into its human drama in a rather melodramatic and potentially heavy-handed way. I’ve seen many films that portray a terminal disease such as cancer and then take the premise to the limits of melodrama. Well, seems like director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser’s “50/50” has done …
review by . October 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Losing several family members to cancer and with a spouse that has had her own battle, I just had to see this film. I was a little worried about having Seth Rogen in it (see my review of The Green Hornet) but even being his obnoxious self could spoil this excellent movie. Joseph Gorden-Levitt learns he has cancer and a very rare type that is growing in his spine and he must start immediate chemotherapy.    There is an immediate change in his girlfriend's behavior towards him …
review by . February 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****    Screenwriters are no longer afraid of exploring a difficult subject such as cancer in one of their works. They know that cancer in cinema is a market in its own; just look at movies like "The Bucket List" and "The Ultimate Gift". People like watching movies like this; and that is precisely why they are made. However, the consumers seem oblivious to the fact that cancer screenwriting for profit is nothing more than shameless, exploitative cash-in. If you …
review by . December 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      Jonathan Levine seemed like he had to make a movie that will have to face different challenges for me to really appreciate it to the fullest. It had to find comedy in the darkest corners of someone's life and it had to embrace drama without harvesting hard for tears. What 50/50 does is exactly what I expected. Trashing me in my theater chair and refill my soul with joy and a beautiful state of catharsis. I love this film simply because it has balls to broke the patterns, …
review by . September 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Whenever dealing with heavy themes, it is always important to find a balance to the material. No one in Hollywood is afraid to laugh about terminal illness anymore, but too many laughs and you risk creating an uncomfortable audience, too few and you risk being a Hallmark television movie of the week. Will Reiser is able to take a frightening part of his life and keep the audience smiling while sharing his heartfelt story of survival. 50/50 is a perfect balance of humor and heart to create …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I'll Take That Bet
50/50 Written by Will Reiser Directed by Jonathan Levine Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston   Adam: I can’t remember being so calm in a long time. Katie: Would you describe it as numbness? Adam: No, I would describe it as fine.   Up and coming director, Jonathan Levine’s latest film, 50/50, is being billed as a cancer comedy, only I cried about five times so I’m not sure the descriptor really fits. …
review by . September 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'50/50' 'Two Jews On Film' Cheer This Beautiful Heartfelt Dramedy (Video)
A doctor tells a young man he has cancer - a tumor.  The man replies 'Tumor...Me?' The doctor says 'yes'.  The man responds...'That's impossible...I don't smoke...I don't drink...I recycle.'      The young man is Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and he not only has cancer...but he has a super rare cancer...a giant tumor growing along his spine and his chances are...50-50.       So …
About the reviewer
Jake Wilbanks ()
Ranked #53
   My name's Jake, I write film reviews and the occasional music/video game/comic/tech review. I've been involved in journalism over the past 3 years, and am currently majoring in Journalism … more
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