Friday, December 9, 2011


By s. Friday, December 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
88/100 (100 min, 2011)
Plot: Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

With a Little Help from My Friends

- You could have totally fucked the shit out of that girl.
- No one wants to fuck me. I look like Voldemort.

The title of the movie refers to the chances of survival Adam, the protagonist of the film, has. He is 27 years old, he has a job, a girlfriend and a good friend he hangs out with. And then one day when he is running, he feels pain in his back. He goes to the doctor who informs him he has rare form of cancer.

"50/50" is a remarkable movie. Granted, I don't recall seeing many films about people dealing with cancer, but this is the first time that the movie about such subject matter has so many light moments and actually feels uplifting. Instead of focusing on the darkness of the situation and portraying Adam as victim, he is shown as a regular person that simply got ill. He doesn't break down, he doesn't cry all the time. Of course he is sad, of course he is mad at what happened to him. But life, however short it may turn out to be, goes on.
The film does a great job at showing that event concerning one person has such a huge impact on the lives of others. And it does it in beautifully subtle way - for most of the movie Adam has no idea what people around him are going through. He knows they want to help him and they are there for him - his friend Kyle tries to boost his spirits by telling him that if 50/50 were his chances in casino he would be lucky, so it's not that bad and by teaching him how to use his situation to...get laid. His mother calls him all the time to check if he is all right. And young therapist, Katherine, although  she is just learning the ropes, offers him genuine sympathy and care. We find out about how all of them were dealing with Adam being sick along with him - there is a beautiful scene where Adam finds out that Kyle, beneath his superficial exterior, was doing the best he could to help his best friend. It has been a long time since I've seen such beautiful, yet delicate, depiction of friendship in a movie.

Adam is based on writer Will Reiser, who was diagnosed with cancer and later recovered. Seth Rogen, who plays Kyle, helped Reiser cope with his disease and convinced him to write a screenplay. Thanks to that, the screenplay for the film is wonderful and feels very fresh - it's not often that we get to see such realistic characters in the movie. Nobody is perfect - Adam has many moments where he is rude to the others, Kyle does many things without thinking first and Racheal, Adam's girlfriend played by excellent Bryce Dallas Howard, cheats on him. But thanks to incredibly warm and sympathetic approach it is impossible to dislike anyone in this movie.
The actors do amazing job - for most of the film you forget you are actually watching the film and the actors, you feel as if you were peeking into these people's lives. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sensational as Adam - his character is hard to define and his struggle with the disease leads through a very complicated journey. There are many mesmerizing scenes in the movie where you can't stop the tears because of Levitt's acting - particularly the scene just before his surgery. The rest of the cast is great as well - Seth Rogen who obviously has a deep, personal connection to the story is fantastic as Kyle, Adam's best friend. He brings so much humour to the movie - in any other film the scene where one guy tells the other he has cancer would probably be incredibly sad, but thanks to Rogen and his delivery of the subsequent questions to Adam about his tumour it is hilarious - I actually spat coffee all over myself when I was laughing. Anna Kendrick, who usually annoys me is perfect as slightly awkward but incredibly charming Katherine, Bryce Dallas Howard delivers another great performance this year as conflicted Racheal. Anjelica Huston is lovely as Adam's mother and Philip Baker Hall, who plays another cancer patient is another person who brings a lot of laughs into the film.

It's all beautifully presented - the cinematography often emphasizes that Adam feels alone with his disease even though he is fortunate to have so many people who care about him. The soundtrack is great - among others you will hear Radiohead and Pearl Jam here. But the real strength of ":50/50" is the story - and since it actually happened and probably keeps happening all over the world as I type these words - it makes it even more poignant. We all have to face awful things in our lives, but at least we got to live once. Maybe life is really like a game in a casino after all?

1 comment:

  1. Mixing humor and painful subject matter is, naturally, very difficult. The beauty of this movie is that it does so with ease, especially with such good actors in these roles as well. Good review.