When a film is described as how someone comes to terms with cancer you tend to fear the worst. There have been too many movie of the week entries where the story is so predictable that I could almost write the lines of dialogue. From the initial shock, through anger and acceptance the story line has been done to death. So when moviescramble sat down to watch 50/50, a comedy about cancer that was based on a true story, the alarm bells were already ringing.
The film centres on Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a twenty-seven year old writer for a radio station. A pain in his back leads to the discovery that he has a rare form of cancer that has grown on his back. He has to seek aggressive treatment so he can have surgery that will give him a better chance for survival.
To begin with he doesn’t show any real emotion. He has come to term with his situation. His therapist (Anna Kendrick), who is new to the job, tries to get him to open up but he doesn’t show the text-book symptoms of anger, resignation etc. His girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) and best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) are probably more freaked out by it. They both react in different ways. Rachael pledges to care from him but at the same time starts to distance herself by not going to Adams hospital appointments. Kyle tries to get Adam to use his illness and lack of hair after chemotherapy to get them both laid. We are then introduced to other various characters including fellow cancer sufferers and his parents who he has kept at arm’s length for most of his adult life. His father suffers from Alzheimer’s and his mother ( Anjelica Huston)cares for him and, now that her son is ill, wants to care for Adam. Adam must come to terms with his condition and balance his commitments and try to make sure he comes out of the other side of the illness.
It’s a difficult thing to try to make an engaging comedy film where there is a very real possibility that the main character will die. This film manages to pull it off. All the elements are there. Solid lead performances, excellent support, nicely paced script and good direction make this a very quick watch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good as always. Since his film career making turn in Brick, Gordon-Levitt has provided a number of strong performances in both supporting and lead roles. For this film it was good to see Seth Rogan toning down his usual performance. Yes he is loud mouthed and crude but the role calls for a bit of depth that Rogan is not usually called upon to supply. He carries it off well. I hope to see more like it in future. Anjelica Huston all but steals the film with her performance as the mother. Every scene she is in belongs to her alone no matter who else is in it.
To the film’s credit it doesn’t fall into any of the expected traps with this type of film. This only adds to the enjoyment as you don’t really know where the story is going. This is a quality piece of work. Recommended.