50/50 (2011)

“You can’t change your situation. The only thing that you can change is how you choose to deal with it.”

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick.

It has just the right balance. 50/50 manages to tackle the touchy subject of cancer in a light and occasional humorous matter. Never detracting from the devastating facts or true emotions that follow a diagnosis, this film is just right in every way.

Loosely based on a true story (a real-life friend of script writer, Will Reiser) 50/50 follows the life of 27 year old Adam when he’s diagnosed with spinal cancer. From his own journey to his friend’s and family’s, this well rounded story is told with a truth and bluntness that really allows it to be grounded, relatable and very accessible.

It’s fair to say most people will have been affected by cancer, not necessarily first hand, but perhaps by a family member or friend. Therefore this type of film has a big potential with its audience. Never shying away from being too out there or controversial, the characters smoke ‘medicinal’ marijuana and joke about their illnesses. While this may be met with a look of contempt, the ability for it to be so completely harmless mean the audience can’t really judge. This side of the film, a more lightweight account of having cancer, does give a life and hope to the film that you can’t help but hold on to. However this fluffiness is met with a harsh reality. Hair loss, ill health, a failing relationship, heart broken parents and a 50% chance of dying.

50/50 works so well because it is a real story for so many people. With the out of the blue diagnosis a numbness is met, pulled off fantastically by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He can’t even fathom this diagnosis – he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and actually recycles. While I worried with Levitt about slipping into Tom mode (500 Days of Summer), he manages to break this typecast and pave the way for a new character. The reactions of his loved ones, close friends and work mates is also completely true to form, at no time does the film feel anything less than an accurate account of a cancer patient.

Seth Rogan plays his part very well, a guy who doesn’t really get how serious this is from the off but eventually comes to terms with the potential result. Anna Kendrick was great as Katie, Adam’s therapist, much better than her Twilight role – she actually spurred a reaction out of me (along the lines of “Awww!”). The only actor I wasn’t that impressed by was Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Adam’s girlfriend. I didn’t feel she added much to the script and was maybe used as a prop for something else Adam has to overcome. The film could have survived without her, but she did okay in her role as the super-bitch.

Not something that you would immediately think could be viably successful, 50/50 is actually impressive in that it manages to humour its audience yet not detract anything in terms of emotion or the realism needed when tackling the cancer subject. A great film that is packed full of emotion, 50/50 should be watched 100%.

Star rating: 8/10

Directed by Jonathan Levine.

Running time 100 minutes.

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