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50/50

A 2011 movie directed by Jonathan Levine.

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50/50

  • Sep 29, 2011
Rating:
+4
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 a terrific story.

Let me start though with the tagline of the movie "It takes a pair to beat the odds," it's just awful. There is so much more to this movie than just two buddies looking to support each other. In fact there is a great ensemble here that helps convey the story’s message. I understand why the tag line exists; it is to let people know that there are two very popular male leads in the story. But this isn't a movie you are going to want to roll into anyway to forget about life for a while, the featured lead has cancer after all, and while there is plenty of humor behind the story the character still has a 50 percent survival rate, and the movie does not shy away from the emotional moments that come with such a diagnosis.

The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, who has just been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. And to no one’s surprise he plays the role superbly. He goes through the whole range of emotions almost effortlessly yet seems strained while doing it. The strain of course seems natural from a person who can see his own demise. Without the help of Seth Rogan, the performance may have leaned too far towards the depressing. Instead Rogan, who was a producer on the movie, balances out the story with laughs as Adam's best friend Kyle. In the third act though he is able to dig a little deeper into his character and shows why he is so easily likable by audiences despite his usual crassness.

The reason that Rogan does so well though is that he is part of the story that the movie is based on. The movie was written by Will Reiser who worked with Rogan on "Da Ali G Show" which is when he found out he had a serious form of cancer. The first draft of the script which was called "How I Learned Nothing from Cancer" I imagine lacked some of the more heartfelt moments that Gordon-Levitt was able to portray. But Reiser worked with Rogan to reflect back on this period in their lives to examine what really happened from many different perspectives. The combination and reflection both men shared helped to shape the movie.

It wasn't just the men that helped to make a strong finished product, the females co-stars help to elevate the lead actor and sometimes even outshine him. The first woman we meet is Adam's girlfriend played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She is always being cast as the beautiful bitchy character, which she has been playing so well recently. I don't understand how she plays the character so well with her grandparents being the Cunninghams, I suppose good parenting skips a generation. The bigger part though belongs to Anna Kendrick who plays Adam's therapist; she also seems to be cast in similar roles as the young professional who is in over her head. She once again does fantastic in the role and I can't wait to see her more often as she is a great personality to play the love interest in any drama. Anjelica Huston shows her years of experience and is superb as an overbearing mother. Any young person in the audience can identify why Adam may find her annoying but when he finally lets his guard down she shows him the caring and love every mother has for their son; which in turn should make every son feel guilty for blowing them off.

The sadness never becomes unbearable. Sure it may be tough to get through the whole movie without a couple sniffles, especially for those who have been through something like this before. But just when you think all the drama has taken over the actors in the movie will do something unbearably charming and will bring a smile back to your face. Often times while watching a movie I will say to myself “right here” in a hope that the movie will end on a high note, I don’t think any movie has ever gotten so close to a perfect moment, which makes sense as this story is full of near perfect moments. B+

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September 30, 2011
I like the sound of this -- that it's about a sad topic, but is not overly sad and actually has humor in it. Plus, I love Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Will have to check this out!
 
September 29, 2011
Good review. I'm 50/50 about the movie as I don't find the subject matter appealing.
September 29, 2011
I see what you did there....Yea you gotta go into the movie wanting to see it.
 
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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 . 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 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 …
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