As the guy to my right and the girl to my left wiped away tears from their cheeks, you wouldn’t be wrong to question if 50/50 was not the comedy that everyone had lead you to believe.
When 27 year old Adam (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with a form of spinal cancer his world goes into a tail spin, but as he learns to deal with his situation through the help of his rookie therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) and his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who spots a niche in the female market and sees Adam’s illness as a way to attract the attention of the fairer sex. Based on writer Will Reisner’s own experience as a young cancer patient, it takes a look at how life does not necessarily have to stop when you are told you could die soon.
Obviously, a comedy involving the topic of cancer is tricky, you have to show respect to the disease but allow yourself leeway so that the seriousness of Adam’s condition doesn’t drain any chance of laughs, but then you have to make sure that those laughs don’t belittle the illness. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that you walk a thin line of being offensive, but no one can argue the fact that Reisner is the perfect social filter for what a sufferer of the sickness would find funny. The comedy is at times juvenile and silly but it has a focused sense of humour and the strange thing is that isn’t even the greatest achievement of the film.
That accomplishment goes to how it deals with its tonal shifts, at the flip of a switch it goes from light hearted and uplifting comedy to serious drama about a man’s fear of dying. The switch is so effective and most important of all organic that it never once feels like it wants to dictate your emotions, everything feels truthful and realistic. It will have you laughing one second and fighting back the lump in your throat the next.
The only real issue I had with the film was Bryce Dallas Howard’s Rachael, the girlfriend of Adam at the start of the film. Don’t get me wrong she has a few good scenes and gives Gordon-Levitt’s character some decent moments later on but it felt that she was only there because the writer thought the script needed a shitty character because everyone else in the story is so quirky and likeable. She’s like a character created solely so Adam had someone to aim his anger to. Performances on a whole were great, Gordon-Levitt being his normal fantastic self, Rogen as the comedic catalyst is on top form, Angelica Huston as the overbearing mother gets a couple of great laughs and Kendrick is as cute as a button.
Jonathan Levine shows a lot of promise, this being his third directorial feature outing, but apart from getting the balance act correct it has to be said that the true winner of the film is Reisner’s screenplay, the story being autobiographical adds that touch of class and realism that is not only charming but gives the film that certain edge both in it’s comedy and drama.
I went into 50/50 with certain high expectations and it’s great to say that it easily surpassed every single one of them. Hilarious, touching and a definitely has a lot more going for it than just being called the ‘Cancer Comedy’.