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50/50

A 2011 movie directed by Jonathan Levine.

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Cancer dramedy that will make you laugh 'till you cry.

  • Feb 13, 2012
Rating:
+4
***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 ask me, exploiting a topic worth exploring rather than sugarcoating is not only lazy; it's wrong. It disrespects, insults, and offends those who care about such issues and treat them realistically, unlike the man who holds the pen.

This isn't the case every time a movie about cancer is made, however. Not all movies are created equal; ones dealing with tales of cancer-ridden patients apply to this belief on a whole new level. "50/50" is a new film that is indeed nothing alike most films dealing with similar topics. It isn't preachy, hammy, or melodramatic; like a good movie should, it gives us characters as well as the choice to care about them. Through a precise and masterfully written script, it's likely that we will care about these people; and that is where the movie scores big. It observes the post-cancer lifestyle and respects it, which is only natural given that the screenwriter, Will Reiser, based a lot of the story off of his own life when dealing with the great, complicated steps of cancer: diagnosis, therapy, survival, and a whole lot of time spent in the hospital waiting room.

Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the man in the waiting room. Or at least he's about to be. A content, perhaps even successful journalist at the ripe age of 27; Adam pays a visit to the doctor one day and leaves feeling apprehensive. The doc tells him that a rare form of cancer has developed in his spinal column; and there is but a 50/50 chance that he will survive.

He has no trouble breaking the news to his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his best buddy Kyle (Seth Rogen); but it isn't easy being the bearer of bad news, especially when your audience is your parental figures - in this case, mother (Angelica Huston) and father (Serge Houde). In the end, Kyle seems to be most supportive of Adam's situation; albeit a little arrogant as well (he uses Adam's cancer to get girls). But of course, one must take the naughty with the nice; and vice versa.

Possibly the best part about this film is how it establishes sympathy; our sympathy, for these characters. Specific scenes, shots, angles, and atmospheric queues add to the overall quality of the film; the isolated music-driven sequences are most definitely amongst the most emotionally tense. Reiser is the key element to the film's rather epic success; he writes each character as a real person who we can identify with on some level. The vision is alas completed with the included efforts of director Jonathan Levine as well as the main cast members; all of whom turn in excellent performances.

However, it's Levitt and Rogen that win our hearts. The former is a caricature of Reiser; whilst the latter is a parable for Seth Rogen himself, who was a close friend of screenwriter Reiser, and stuck with him until the end when he was diagnosed with his very own case of cancer. The film is semi-autobiographical - meaning that not all of it may be true - but what is tends to be painfully and realistically resonant. I've never been diagnosed with cancer; but my emotions still got the best of me by the film's third act, which is the sort of emotional sucker punch that the relatively dull year of 2011 was in dire need of. And if one can relate without directly doing so; I'd say that's pretty powerful writing.

The fear, the mystery, the humor of cancer; we see it all. Reiser and Rogen (who also co-wrote) both understand that laughter is often the best medicine, and it's through humor that they tell this touching, memorable story. Yes, the humor is sometime rude and rough; but I like to think of raunchy humor as a form of ventilation, and hey, if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. At least it's well-written and performed enough to be at the level of sheer hilarity, at least in some scenes; you'll literally be laughing until you cry.

I loved "50/50" because, unlike a lot of films sharing similar stories of cancer patients, it's no sell-out. It's appealing and has some big names in its cast - with Anna Kendrick also playing Adam's therapist in the film - but the emotions are unexpectedly honest and the characters feel almost excessively humane. I don't know about you; but those are all, in my opinion, damn good reasons why there's a 50/50 chance that you'll either like or love (both combined create a perfect 100) the film. It's irresistible, funny, entertaining, and I'd say it's one of my favorites from 2011. Any movie that succeeds in making me cry - and few do - deserves impeccable recognition. It also helps that the movie, personal emotions and thoughts aside, is surprisingly excellent in most aspects. You could argue about whether it's perfect or not, or whether it's true to life or not; but you couldn't argue about the appeal and the entertainment value. That's a fact worth looking into in an attempt to come up with a peculiar percentage or fraction to explain the odds.

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February 14, 2012
Great film! I was so glad I went to see this one!
 
February 13, 2012
Your title says it all! Nice write-up, I really enjoyed this film and it had me laughing and crying along the way.
 
1
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 . October 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
“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 …
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
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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