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50/50

A 2011 movie directed by Jonathan Levine.

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The Odds Are Good That You Would Love This Film!

  • Nov 14, 2011
Rating:
+4

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 something different since it goes into its bleak and heartbreaking premise with a serious-minded comedic approach that just works. The film is perfectly balanced and feels very sincere and real as it goes into the story with a profound honesty that feels very fresh. The film is loosely based on Reiser’s own life.

Adam and Kyle (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen) are longtime friends and co-workers. Adam is the straight and narrow dude; he doesn’t smoke or drink while Kyle prefers to live his life in a more carefree way. When Adam is diagnosed with cancer, his life of course is turned upside-down. Telling his mother (Angelica Huston) about his illness may turn her into a more “nagging” mom, his friend Kyle is more into taking advantage of the situation, and his beautiful girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) who he hasn’t had sex with for a number of weeks grows to feel emotionally detached. Adam seems to have some issues since he hasn’t learned how to drive, and he really hasn’t gotten into taking care of anything since his rare cancer shows a mere 50/50 survival rate. Adam’s situation causes growth from himself and from everyone, including a pretty young therapist named Katie McKay (Anna Kendrick)….

                            Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam and Seth Rogen as Kyle in ``50/50.''

                            Anna Kendrick and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "50/50."

The film is pretty simple and yet this is what really makes it work. There is a sort of sincerity in the film’s proceedings as we see the direction take us to the little things about dealing with cancer. The chemo-therapy sessions that takes Adam into forming a bond with other older patients (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer), from his therapy sessions, his small talks with his mother, the way his friend Kyle deals with his situation in his own way, and how a cancer patient’s mind would deal with a situation. The characters are developed and you begin to form an attachment to them through their dealings with Adam, while Adam becomes the one character that is the one mechanism for the growth of the story.

The screenplay and the direction were very mindful in how it executed each scene. There is great emotion in the film and the direction was able to find the right balance of drama and humor that sidesteps the potential trap that is could turn into a sort of over-execution and rely on shoddy sermons about how to deal with cancer. In some ways, it reminded me of “The Guitar” and how “Departures” was able to execute beautiful melancholy despite its main premise was death. The film focuses on simple things that could actually happen and will indeed happen but it doesn’t take the cheap ways out. It was so cool for Levine to write the script in a way that he doesn’t ask or tell his viewer how to react but encourages them to react. It all feels natural the way the film seemed to flow, it never seemed to want you to get teary eyed, and yet, your heart is touched by what you see on-screen.

Anna Kendrick in "50/50." Bryce Dallas Howard in "50/50."

                 Bryce Dallas Howard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anjelica Huston and Serge Houde in "50/50."

                Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in "50/50."

What is also surprising is that “50/50” manages to become sincerely funny despite its difficult subject. There were several scenes that outright made me laugh; and I was very amazed how Reiser found some unexpected humor in a movie about cancer. From a dog named “Skeletor” and to Rogen’s antics; much of the comedy comes from Adam’s situation as the character sees the absurdity of his own condition. The film does keep a balance as to not point an accusing finger as some people (his mother and his girlfriend) around Adam seem to be having issues dealing with Adam’s illness. It all feels very real even when his therapist seems to fumble some of his sessions but then, they eventually form an odd connection.

Levitt is amazingly convincing in his portrayal as I felt very sympathetic to his character and I was rooting for him to beat the disease all the way. Seth Rogen plays his Kyle character with an amount of zest as he has done with his other characters such as in “The Green Hornet” and maybe even “Pineapple Express”. His seemingly insensitive behavior can be quite annoying at times, but the direction plays a few subtle surprises that made Kyle as important to the narrative as his mother and his girlfriend. Anna Kendrick is charming as the young therapist; she felt a little uneasy at first, but the more you get to see her, the more you becomes invested in the subplot that surrounds her. Huston was very good as Adam’s worrisome mother, and despite some spots where her scenes felt a little too heavy and cartoonish, I could relate to the emotions wrapped around her. Bryce Dallas Howard was excellent as the girlfriend who tries to tough things out, and even when I hated her, I couldn’t help understanding her point of view. Yes, she was cold at times, but she felt very real and proved to be very significant in the film‘s premise.

“50/50’s” success comes from the fact that it sidesteps the expectations that it would leave people sad and depressed. In doing so, it becomes a tight, well-executed dramedy that covers all the different possibilities that may stem from a situation like Adam’s. It is a film about mistakes, dealing with different fears and struggles and how we have to celebrate small triumphs. It is a sincere film that is just so refreshing; from the romantic subplot that may not work or not, to the final scenes that proves itself a true heartbreaker, but not in the way you would expect. It begins as a good movie and the more you get into it, you then realize that you are watching a great film. That is what “50/50” is all about. It disarms you, then touches you, it may even annoy you, but that is what life is all about. Reiser and Levine have made a winner.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

                   Poster Art for "50/50."




 
 
 
 

The Odds Are Good That You Would Love This Film! The Odds Are Good That You Would Love This Film!

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November 20, 2011
Sounds way better than the previews made it sound. Seth Rogen is so hit or miss for me. Did you see "Paul"? Nice solid critique and rental for sure now. Thanks Will.
November 21, 2011
thanks for the read again, Jay. I, too have mixed feelings about Rogen, but he did well with this movie. Yes, I have seen Paul?  Have you seen it? Hope you review it...
 
November 19, 2011
Yeah I want to see this one for sure, great review WP.
November 19, 2011
you will like it!
 
November 16, 2011
Glad you liked it too. Your review was so encouraging that you didn't round your review up to a full five stars?
November 16, 2011
Good question. Not really sure, I couldn't really find anything wrong with the film, but I have to say some scenes felt a little 'exaggerated' (as with Rogen and the mom) and I felt that it kinda lessened its momentum. I need to see it again to take a look why I had that 'not so filling' reaction... I guess I reserve 5's if I know for sure I would see it again and again.
November 16, 2011
On a personal note, this movie was a lot more important to me because it was someone very dear to me that really wanted to see it as she is battling cancer herself. There were several scenes that she could relate to and some of the scenes in the psychologist session gave her some positive energy.
November 16, 2011
Oh, yeah. This is definitely good for folks who is fighting this deadly disease. Funny you said that since I went with a very good friend of mine and her mother is in recovery from cancer.
 
November 14, 2011
I'll definitely be seeing this once it hits DVD.
November 14, 2011
I have a feeling you'll like it.
 
November 14, 2011
I remember seeing the brief previews of this and thought at the time that Kyle seemed to be an amazing friend trying to deal with his friend's cancer with a sense of humor; I thought "wow, everybody who's struck with a deadly disease should have a friend like this" - and your review seems to make me believe I may have been right about the first impression I had - and Adam is cute as a button. I really would like to see this one and glad you liked it so much--thanks!!
November 14, 2011
I liked this film as it seemingly brought the different personalities in the film and made them define its story. It is pretty good and well done, I am a little sorry that it took me more than 4 weeks (since it was released) until I went to see it. Gosh, the ladies behind me in the theater kept saying "he's so cute"...now you are following their lead LOL! This is a must-see imho for 2011.
November 15, 2011
LOL I was drawn to his cuteness just in the preview; I can only imagine how cute he'll be when I see the whole thing! LOL I don't think it was just his look, but his personality seemed to catch me off guard just in the few minutes of previews which made me want to see it; like you, I have been late in catching this film! I actually forgot about the movie until I read your review and I am convinced I really need to see this one. Thanks Will....
 
November 14, 2011
A positive attitude is needed to defeat cancer, as well as careful post-operative followup and eating a good whole food diet. Cut out sugar, alcohol, cut down meat consumption and smoking. Fruits, veggies, salads, flaxseed and high quality vitamins like ACES (Vit. A,C,E and Selenium) are the lifeline to a longer and happier life. Consume water over other liquids. Herbal teas are permitted.
November 14, 2011
Thanks for the comments. It makes the movie much more interesting since Adam is clean as a whistle and very health-conscious.
November 16, 2011
I agree.
 
1
More 50/50 reviews
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 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 …
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