Review: 50/50 (2011) by Jamie

Cancer. It’s a subject that you might not think works that well in a comedy unless it’s in something like South Park. Is there a way to do a touching yet funny film about such a serious condition? Well, it turns out that there is as demonstrated by the subject of this review, ‘50/50’.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a man who’s life is acceptable but not particularly extraordinary. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he has an attractive, if somewhat emotionally distant, girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and he works at a local radio station with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen). So, like I said, nothing special but an agreeable existence. One day his whole life is turned upside down when he goes to the doctor to get some test results to find out what’s been causing his recurring back pains and he’s informed he has a rare form of cancer with a 50% survival rate. To help him deal with this he is sent to a trainee psychologist (Anna Kendricks).

And that’s about all I can really say about the plot without giving away too much in terms of spoilers. Needless to say that Adam goes through several stages of grief, anger, acceptance etc, all whilst trying to deal with the experience of going through his ordeal with cancer in his own way, generally trying to rely on help from the people around him as little as possible despite their own efforts to try and help him in their own way. Kyle tries to get Adam to use his illness to his own advantage by using his friend to help him pick up girls whilst also encouraging Adam to do the same. The character may seem a little selfish at first but it becomes clear that he really does care about his best friend and is basically just doing what he can to keep his spirits up.

There’s also Adam’s somewhat overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) who, due to a lifetime of worrying incessantly about her son, Adam tries to push away (as kindly as he possibly can) even though this is a time in his life when he should really be seeking her care and love. This is made all the more difficult, and somewhat heartbreaking, because Adam’s father is suffering from Altzheimer’s and so, as Anna Kendrick’s character puts it “she has a husband she can’t talk to and a son who won’t.”

To sum up, ‘50/50’ is a film that manages to take a very serious subject, cancer and the way it affects the sufferer and the people around him, that manages to make it both funny and sweet. It made made me laugh and also brought a few tears to my eyes, especially the scene where Adam is talking to his parents right before he goes in for his surgery (but then again, I realise I‘m a massive pussy who cries at the drop of a hat in films. Fuck, I cried when I watched Jurassic Park in the cinema recently when the main theme played for the first time). I think it’s definitely challenging ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as my favourite film of this year. Sure, it’s a bit saccharine at times but it never really goes too over the top in the sappiness department. It also has a pretty fine soundtrack. Seriously, if you watch one comedy about cancer this year, make it ‘50/50’. Five pints out of five. Laterz.

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