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50/50 is a comedy about a guy called Adam, and was inspired by a true story.
Adam, a 27-year-old health-conscious TV producer, lives in Seattle. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Readers may instantly question whether humour and cancer can exist hand-in-hand, but the mix of these two incongruent subjects in 50/50 has been handled with great care, to the point that it’s probably the most ‘real’ film of 2011. To explore the subject of cancer within the common walls of comedy, while also keeping it honest, seems quite a task; one perhaps too difficult to be achieved by just anyone. However, Jonathan Levine manages to deliver this story with truth and quality. It is a story of one person’s upright experience: that of Will Reiser, who himself wrote the screenplay for 50/50.
Will, who has been diagnosed with a malignant spinal tumor, is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt brings the best performance of his career to 50/50, adapting his character in the most straight-forward and even-handed way with his portrayal of a young man dealing with a life-altering sickness. Seth Rogen – who plays Kyle, Reiser’s friend in the movie – is also Reiser’s friend away from the Hollywood studios. Rogen brings most of the wit to 50/50, and although it is not his usual performance of coarse gags, he proves he can carry a more lenient and unfeigned hilarity.
Gordon-Levitt and Rogen come together candidly in this film, keeping the friendship honest and expectant of how friends can behave in a similar situation – that is, as if nothing has changed. More frail feelings are shared between Adam and Katherine (Anna Kendrick), Adam’s inexperienced therapist; and Adam’s devoted and sometimes over-shielding mother (Anjelica Huston), who must deal with a son who often overlooks her and a husband suffering from dementia. It is nothing less than a brilliant performance by Huston, while Anna Kendrick is utterly charming.
From the opening scene to the final credits, 50/50 takes you on an emotional ride. Under Jonathan Levine’s direction, the viewer is privy to a story of unembellished truth. It’s about the reality of cancer and those few rare people who bear with you, your grief, your fear and your fight.
This film stands out – it’s real life.