Monday, October 3, 2011

50/50 - Movie Review

This review might be a little more spoiler filled than normal, so be warned.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the JGL) plays Adam, a 20-something that finds out he back cancer.  It's a rare form of cancer that even the doctor seemed a little surprised about.  After he gets the news, he looks up the cancer on WebMD and sees the survival rate is about 50%, hence the title of the movie.  One thing that struck me as odd was that his doctor didn't even tell him that.  I remember thinking that his doctor had a terrible beside manner.  He was just throwing all of these complex medical terms at Adam and it was clear he didn't understand what he was talking about.  I was wondering why the doctor wasn't giving it to him in layman's terms.

You find out at the beginning of the movie that Adam has never learned to drive, so he relies heavily on his best friend, played by Seth Rogen, and his girlfriend, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Adam undergoes chemotherapy and befriends two other chemo patients, played by Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer (Max Headroom!).  The scenes were they are together were actually some of my favorite moments of the movie.  There's a great camaraderie between them.

He also sees a psychologist (Anna Kendrick), that the hospital assigns to him to help him deal with his situation.  Kendrick's character is just starting out in her career, and Adam is one of her first patients.  She appears to be learning as she's going and Adam doesn't really seem all that interested in the thearapy sessions at first.

You also have his parents, played by Angelica Huston and Sergo Houde.  Adam's father is shown to be suffereing from Alzheimer's disease.  Angelica Huston was really great and Houde actually kind of broke my heart a bit.  I think he really sold the Alzheimers and that kind of stuff always makes me a little sad.

The performances were all great.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to give great performance after great performance.  It won't be too long before you start hearing his name consistenly around Oscar time.  He gives his character an emotional weight and you really are along for the ride with him emotionally.  His character is just a normal, boring guy, but you actually see him grow and become a better person.  If there can be a silver lining to getting cancer, it would be the growth he gets out of the experience.

Seth Rogen is basically playing Seth Rogen again.  The guy doesn't seem to have much in the way of range, but it works here and I actually thought this was one of Seth Rogen's better roles as far as I'm concerned.  As you might expect when you see Seth Rogen in a movie, there's a a few scenes of pot smoking and eating food with pot in them.  It happens often enough that I was beginning to think 50/50 was going to turn into another pot comedy.  The use (with the exception of Rogen) did actually appear to be for medical purposes and they didn't really go there with any kind of message about drug use one way or another.

Anna Kendrick just lights up a room.  She gave her performance the right amount of sweetness and insecurity in her job as she's just starting out.  I really like Bryce Dallas Howard, but it's like her presence signaled 'she was going to be the bad guy' from the start of the movie.  This is kind of spoiler-y, but she does something about halfway through the movie and you just knew it was coming.

This is an example of a movie where the trailer is a little misleading.  It's not quite the light-hearted comedy it seems.  There are some very serious and emotional moments.  I actually ran into some friends after the movie that had also just saw it and they remarked on the fact that it wasn't as light as they thought it was going to be. They had a much stronger emotional reaction than I did as well.  However, you can attribute this more to the fact that I'm more machine than man.  Therefore, I don't suffer from the same human emotions that you normal humans have.  Seriously though, there's a good balance of humor being used to balance out the serious nature of what Adam is dealing with.

50/50 was written by Will Riser, and the interesting thing is that the story is based on Riser's actual life.  The funny thing is that Riser's real life best friend is Seth Rogen, so he really is playing himself this time.  I thought Riser wrote a good story and made the characters as real as possible.

Jonathan Levine directed this and I think he did a great job.  It's not his first feature, but another interesting thing is that he directed a movie called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which stars Amber Heard.  I saw trailers for that movie years ago, but it appears it never actually came out.  I was reading up on it and it's been in limbo for years and may be coming out soon.  I'm betting the critical success of 50/50 will likely get All the Boys Love Mandy Lane pushed out finally, so that should be interesting to watch, even though it's an older film.

50/50 is a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  You'll laugh and you'll cry.  Fortunately, the movie strikes a good balance between all of the emotions and it doesn't go totally dark.  If it had been darker, I don't think I would have liked this.  I guess it's about as funny as a movie about a guy getting cancer could be.  Overall, it is a really good film filled with great performances.  I recommend checking it out.

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