I usually cry at movies where a character has cancer, but 50/50 single handedly exposed me to my worst fear: Joseph Gordon-Levitt with cancer. I didn’t even fully prepare myself and read what 50/50 was about beforehand. With actors such as Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I seriously thought it would be a comedy. When I was crying twenty minutes in, I kept thinking “what kind of comedy IS this?”
I have a few lessons learned about “How to Deal With Cancer” as taught by 50/50.
1 – If you are a nice girl, you deserve having JGL say he wants to make you pancakes.
2- Do not cheat on your cancerous boyfriend. Seth Rogen will come out of nowhere and take pictures of you on his cell phone.
3- Do not hand keys to someone who doesn’t know how to drive, especially if you suspect they don’t want to live anymore.
4- Sometimes a reassuring but awkward touch will remain awkward.
5- Having cancer could help get you laid.
6- It’s appropriate to read a therapy book in the bathroom. It is still a book, it is still a bathroom.
7- A good girlfriend bakes cookies. An awesome wife bakes “special cookies.”
8- Say the good news first.
9- Working at a public radio station gets you a house in Seattle. Working at a radio station in NYC means you’re still an undergrad.
10- If you leave something at an ex’s house, chances are they will burn it in the backyard.
Having said that, here is a real review:
The movie starts with Adam (Gordon-Levitt) going about his normal life – his life of being an anxiety-ridden pushover. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license because the 5th leading cause of death is a car accident and “why take the risk?” Rogen plays his best friend Kyle (win) and they both work at a public radio station in Seattle (fail – what year is it?) Adam finds out he has cancer and has a 50/50 shot of living.
All throughout the film, I was trying to predict the story line. Does Adam “really start living” now that he is facing the prospect of dying? Does he try to right the wrongs of his past life? I couldn’t tell you what the hidden message of the film was, because this film had no such agenda. It served as an homage to anyone who has had to suffer with cancer – and by that I also include the friends and family trying to find a way to bring comfort to their sick loved one and cope themselves.
It turns out the movie is an homage to the experience that screenwriter Will Reiser, a friend of Rogen, went through. Rogen and his friend Evan Goldberg both produced the film. When watching, I knew I would be impressed with Gordon-Levitt, but Rogen caught me by surprise. I find most comedic actors at their best in dramatic and emotional roles and Rogen did not disappoint. His character provided comedic relief at the most tense of moments, such as when it was discovered that Adam’s girlfriend had been cheating on him (Rogen: I nailed you you ****! I have hated you for months and now I have proof of how much you suck as a person!) While Rogen brought laughs, you could also sense the emotional roller coaster he was feeling when coping with the fact his best friend has cancer. The movie was evidently very personal for Rogen, having to play the part of the jokester friend after playing it in real life.
This movie has been dubbed a “cancer comedy”, because you are guaranteed to laugh more than cry, which makes the scenes that cause you to cry all the more powerful. What did it for me was a scene with Adam’s mother Diane (Angelica Huston) and Adam on the couch of the doctor’s office, where she admits to going to a “mothers with children with cancer” support group. Yeah, that ripped my heart open.
50/50 was one of the most human movies I have seen. You find yourself relating to every character in the film, which good actors and good scripts are supposed to do.
50/50 will be in theaters this September. Watch the trailer, mark the release date on your calendar, and bring some one you feel comfortable laughing/crying in front of.