Cancer is never a funny subject, but in their new movie, somehow Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen make it work.
50/50 tells the story of Adam (Levitt) and his best friend Kyle (Rogen) as they deal with Adam’s recently diagnosed spinal cancer. After finding out that he is sick, Adam looks online to see what his chances are, and the Internet tells him he has 50/50 odds of surviving.
On the surface, it sounds like the movie would just be about Adam’s struggle to cope with his possibly fatal illness, and that is certainly a part of it. But the story goes much deeper than Rogen’s crude humor and Levitt’s portrayal of a cancer victim.
Early on, Adam realizes that his girlfriend is cheating on him, and Kyle’s quest becomes finding his friend a rebound girl, although secretly he is just intending on taking his friend’s mind off of the situation. This works, but it also shows Adam that many people will just pity him, and he doesn’t want that.
Some of the most interesting character development comes from Adam’s meetings with his therapist and obvious love interest Katherine (Anna Kendrick). A 24-year-old college student going for her doctorate, Katherine is a slightly scatter-brained counselor at Adam’s hospital.
The dialogue and emotions flying between these two characters are strong, and manage to be both dramatic and light-hearted when needed. Everyone in the movie has a great depth to them, but these two really move beyond the rest.
Instead of being a depressing, two-hour cryfest, 50/50 manages to focus not only on the person suffering from cancer, but also on the people surrounding them. Adam’s father has Alzheimer’s, and his mother is an overbearing control freak.
His best friend Kyle is a free spirit who is only concerned with having fun and being there for his friend. Each of these characters comes alive in the movie, and the acting is superb.
The film, more than anything, is a celebration of life. It puts a human face on a touchy subject and forces the audience to look at the ugly reality of cancer. The way it presents itself is unique and it’s hard to limit this movie to one genre.
I walked into the theater not sure what to expect. Having Rogen in it meant there was a good chance of some foul humor in the film, and that was there. Levitt meant there was going to be a lot of drama and suspense, and that was there, too. But an excellent balance was found between the two, and I was pleasantly surprised by the movie.
Typically there is a lull in good films at the end of summer, but 50/50 turned out to be a diamond in the rough. It is by far the best movie released this year to date, and a must-see for anyone who enjoys a heartwarming tale of personal growth and self-discovery. Just as long as they aren’t afraid to shed a tear every now and then.