Sunday, September 25, 2011

“50/50” – Movie Review


This morning, my movie class held its 2nd weekend bonus screening of the fall semester with the comedy/drama “50/50” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen (who also co-produced) and Anna Kendrick (George Clooney’s young trainee from “Up In The Air”). 



When a young man is given 50/50 odds of survival after being diagnosed with cancer, he tries his best to beat the disease – but will he have the support of his friends and family in trying to do so?



At 27 years of age, Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a young man with a beautiful girlfriend and a promising career as a segment producer for public radio – but when he can’t shake a nagging backache, he finally sees a doctor, who diagnoses the cause as a rare cancer in the form of a malignant spinal tumor.  Researching the malady, he learns that he only has a 50% chance of survival.  Nevertheless, he sets out to do his best to try to overcome the illness by taking chemotherapy and seeing Katherine (Kendrick), a hospital-appointed therapist who is seeking to earn a doctorate degree.  The problem here is that she’s even younger than Adam, who is only her third patient. 

Adam’s girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) swears her allegiance to him, helping him throughout his recovery period, even when Adam’s doting mother (Anjelica Houston) offers to move in.  Unfortunately for Adam, it soon becomes evident that Rachael is not up to the task; a self-absorbed artist, she is more concerned with her own career than with her boyfriend’s health.  Ultimately, when Adam’s high school buddy Kyle (Rogen) is able to prove that Rachael has been cheating on him, Adam dumps her, tossing her out of his house, opting instead to go it alone. 

After getting increasingly ill due to the chemotherapy, Adam learns that the treatment is not having the desired result.  His doctor informs him that the only choice at this point is surgery to remove the tumor – although this certainly has no guarantees attached.  As Adam awaits the surgery, a friendship develops between him and Katherine, outside of her office.  With Katherine, Kyle and Adam’s parents all in his corner, he appears to have an ample support system – but will this be enough to help him win out over the cancer?


If you aren’t terribly fond of movies that could be described as “heartwarming” – and I could certainly appreciate that – then it would be understandable that you’d want to stay clear of “50/50”.  Yet the filmmakers have managed to successfully create something of a comedic buddy movie about a disease.  Keep in mind that while Seth Rogen’s role is large and crucial to the story, he is not the star of this movie – he serves more as comic relief than anything else.   The cast is superb and the story is well-told, causing me to give this one a high recommendation; this is definitely a movie you want to see in theaters as soon as it’s released. 

One of the minor misgivings I had about the film was Kendrick’s character of Katherine, the therapist.  The romantic entanglement that occurs between Katherine and Adam feels a bit contrived, as does the unlikely pairing of such an inexperienced therapist with a young man close to her in age.  That said, however, it’s certainly not enough to dissuade me from recommending the movie because the filmmakers magically made the whole thing emerge as believable in the end.  Also, if you’ve grown weary of Rogen’s typical slacker-pothead-hedonist character, then please be advised that you get plenty more of the same in “50/50”. 

Following the screening, there was an interview with the film’s screenwriter, Will Reiser.  This movie is based on a true story – Reiser’s.  As a producer for Sacha Baron Cohen’s old HBO TV show “Ali G”, Reiser networked himself well and wound up becoming friends with Seth Rogen in real life.  About seven months after the TV show ended, Reiser was diagnosed with cancer.  Early on, he and Rogen had joked about making a comedy concerning a serious illness -- “50/50” was the movie that ultimately resulted.  One thing that Reiser mentioned did not occur to him in real life was the romance with his therapist – his real life therapist was in fact a woman in her 60’s. 



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