I was SUPER skeptical of “50/50” going in. I figured the title was pretty apt –  that 50/50 was just about the chance I’d have of liking it.

I mean, a cancer comedy? To me, that just seemed like an insurmountable oxymoron. Those two things do NOT go together. Added to which my “Tearjerker Alert System” was going off like mad. DANGER! DANGER!

But, in light of my newfound responsibilities as a movie blogger, and in the wake of some extremely positive early reviews… I headed in to watch the story of a young man diagnosed with cancer, and his buddy who tries his best to help.

I’m glad I did.

You need to know… “50/50” is NOT a comedy. Don’t let the marketing fool you, this does not belong in the comedy section of the DVD aisles. I understand why the studio would want to market it as such, of course. Comedy is going to sell more tickets than cancer. And it’s not to say the movie isn’t funny. It’s very funny. Frequently. I mean, the humor ratio is way higher in this movie than any other movie of its type. Easily.

But “50/50” is a serious movie about a serious illness.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Adam, a young man who receives some extraordinarily difficult news. He has a rare form of cancer. There’s a tumor growing on his spine, and it’s life threatening. In fact, the survival rate for that particular type of cancer is 50/50. That’s not all he has to deal with, either. A life threatening illness disrupts everything you know… especially your relationships with other people. It plays havoc on his relationship with his girlfriend, his coworkers don’t know how to relate to him, and his Mother wants to smother him and care for him any way she can.

The only person in his life that maintains a semblance of normalcy with him is his best friend, Kyle, played by Seth Rogen. Rogen’s character does his best to keep things light, and normal, between the two. Not that he tries to pretend as if nothing is wrong, just that he tries to be the one person that isn’t going to act totally imbalanced around Adam. Adam has enough to deal with as it is. The relationship between the two of them is where the comedy comes through. There’s some irreverent moments, and as shown in the previews, the two do use Adam’s cancer to hit on chicks. The movie has some really funny lines, and has a real knack for making you laugh when you wouldn’t expect there to be anything funny.

But this is a serious movie. Joseph Gordon Levitt is really fantastic here, and you WILL wind up caring about his character.

There are a lot of people who are going to see this movie and wind up bawling, I’m sure. It was a pretty sniffle-full theatre when I saw it. Did it get me? No. Not quite. Let’s say…. if this were a party, the host pointed out “Crying Fogs” to me over across the room, and asked me if I wanted to go talk to him. I declined. But if I wanted to, he seemed like a pretty approachable guy.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t moved. I was. And impressed. This is a movie that doesn’t over dramatize anything, it doesn’t have to. It’s filled with funny, funny dialogue, which helps you to grow close to the characters. And above all, in addition to the excellent turn by Joseph Gordon Levitt, it has some really great performances across the board, notably Kendrick as Adam’s therapist, Huston as his mother, and Rogen as his friend, even though the role wasn’t much of a stretch.


22 thoughts on “50/50

  1. You said you didn’t think that cancer and comedy could mix, but for some people comedy is a great way of dealing with it. Though at the right moments. But comedy is a great way of maintaining normalcy and breaking the tension with those people who maybe don’t know how to handle your disease immediately.

    Nice review. You’ve confirmed what I hoped the movie would be.

    • Well, you’re right. I mean, 100%. But I honestly didn’t know that until I saw this. This movie does an excellent job of showing not only how draining this illness can be, and how difficult the treatments are… but how it turns your entire life upside down.

      I thought it was excellent, and I went in vert reticent.

      Ian, thanks for stopping in!!

  2. I might check this out too. I thought it might look good, and was eyeing it when they were showing the previews. I was thinking maybe this movie might be a 50/50 chance of liking it and working, but seems like it’s more than that. Will have to try to check it out!

  3. Here’s another movie I wanna see but I can’t find… In Italian release, it’s not even scheduled right now! I wanna go back to the States -_-

    • Did you ever get my email about that Jersey? Thinking about having people do guest pieces… Haven’t heard back from you on it. I understand if you’re not interested, I just want to make sure it didnt fall between the cracks.

      • I am so sorry!
        I’ve been having some troubles with that account lately, it literally takes me hours just to get to my inbox. So I actually haven’t checked it in like a week… But I’ll give it a try right now. Again, I’m so sorry!

  4. Went to see it last night. Let me say that your review was right on! Not a comedy, but well placed humor throughout. I enjoyed the pace of this movie, it never lagged in storyline or emotion for the audience. I really only have one criticism and realize it could just be me. The performance of Adam (Levitt) had convinced me he was dealing with the emotion of his diagnosis. But I could predict that he would come to some realization or have a breakdown. I guess in the knowing that it was going to happen I would have liked to see more of an emotional build up to that scene. If the directors thought that it would surprise the audience, it didn’t. I liked this movie very much, the characters are likable and well performed. The theater audience actually clapped at the end of this movie.

    • I think that’s pretty realistic though… that at some point, you would just lose your shit. You know? It may not have been a big surprise, but then again, it wasn’t like out of place either. You know? “What’s this guys problem?” LOL.

      Glad you liked it. My audience tried to clap too, but I hit it at like 5:15 and there were only ten or so people in there, so it was awkward and the clappers quit very quickly LOL!

  5. Really looking forward to this film – can’t wait til it’s released in the UK. I’m not a huge fan of Seth Rogen, but a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The trailers amused me. I’m hoping it’s better than The Big C – did not see the cancer comedy in that at all.

    • It’s good, you’ll like it

      I stayed away from “The Big C” – for the reasons I almost stayed away from this. But I’m glad I went. It is very very good.

      Oh! And I’m halfway through Troll Hunter, btw! It’s great so far!

  6. I’ve been watching all the interviews etc. going along with this release. It looks good to me, but I have to admit, I don’t have the extra money now to gamble on a movie night….so I waited for your review. HaHaHa Glad you gave it good marks.

    • 😀

      You’ll like it. It manages to be very funny, yet be a serious movie at the same time. Tough act to pull off.

      If you check it out, circle back and let us know what you think!

    • Yeah, it totally was. It was such a fine line to toe between being sappy and being funny and being sad… and yet they balanced it all so well. The mix in that movie was great.

      Glad you finally got to see it! 😀 It’s definitely top ten for me this year…

  7. Finally caught 50/50 for a rental.
    50/50 is a strong film; no doubt about it. A very commendable cast from Bryce Dallas Howard to Philip Baker Hall to the incomparable Angelica Houston. The story is does not focus on the Big C. It has a lighter tone though not making light of illness. It’s complex, cohesive, and enjoyable start to finish. This movie a hidden gem in today’s big budget blunders.

    The few tiny qualms I have are also what make this film better in the ethics of doctor-patient relationship. Kendrick as the therapist plays an excellent character.

    I think this movie does a great job at highlighting major emotional elements that can happen to people with real life illnesses. The people who know the patient casually start acting weird toward them. Unsolicited medical advice comes from social friends. The patient very well might become withdrawn.

    Rogen’s role, offputting initially for being a crass character, really shines brilliantly here as the quintessential buddy who’s there for his friend and trying to do normal twenty-something stuff with Levitt’s protagonist. JGL is just some kind of awesome to me in this depiction.

    • Yeah, totally. JGL was awesome. He was the reason this movie worked as well as it did. Well, a big part of it. As you mention, the movie also does a great job of highlighting all the emotional issues that come with serious illness – thats because this was based on the actual experience of the screenwriter. So there’s an authenticity to the script that really carries it to being a great movie, too.

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