Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston
Running Time: 100 minutes
When it comes to comedy topics, cancer probably ranks somewhere at the bottom along with incest, pedophilia and rape. Subjects that are normally a no-go zone for laughs. Unless your name happens to be Todd Solondz.
With 50/50, a story about a man in his mid-twenties, dealing with a cancer diagnosis, writer Will Reiser attempts to do just that. A brave – and potentially distasteful – move, Reiser draws wholesale from his own battle with cancer and it’s effect on his, and his friend’s lives.
After suffering from repeated back pains, Adam (Gordon-Levitt) consults a doctor who delivers the news that he’s been diagnosed with The Big C and has a fifty percent chance of survival. Left to cope with the news, he falls back on his best friend Kyle (Rogen), his floozy girlfriend (Howard), overbearing mother (Huston) and a psychologist on her third patient (Kendrick).
It’s to director Levine and Reiser’s credit that 50/50 never really settles in either the comedy or drama corner, settling somewhere on the fence. It is at times exceptionally funny, lines like “no one wants to fuck me. I look like Voldemort.” and a desperate attempt at using an ailment to pick up women being highlights.
The actors too, are either perfectly chosen or lazily typecast. Gordon-Levitt emits his usual sweater-vest wearing cool, Seth Rogen is Seth Rogen, in fact, dialogue like “no one likes putting a dick in their mouth” could have been lifted from any of his previous outings. It’s a transgression that can forgiven due to him actually playing himself, Reiser is a childhood friend and frequent collaborator. Anna Kendrick channels the talented upstart out of her depth she did so well in Up In The Air. Some may find this frustrating, yet they slot so perfectly into their roles and infuse them with such charm and warmth that it’s hard to care.
The best performances are perhaps saved for the older guard, Anjelica’s Huston’s is equals parts crazed, caring and conniving while cinematic stalwart Phillip Baker Hall continues his recent comedic streak as a weed-infused-macaroon eating chemo patient.
Knowing that 50/50 is inspired by Reiser’s struggle with cancer sort of takes the ‘will he/won’t he die?’ the trailer sells you. But really, it’s not that important. Predictability and caricatures aside, there’s a film here full to the brim of heart and life, and in a strange way, life-affirming.