Wednesday, 18 July 2012

50/50 (2011)

A cancer-comedy. A comedy about cancer. I imagine that probably wasn't the easiest film idea to sell to film producers and distributors, but it's a good thing Lionsgate decided to back this take on screenwriter Will Reiser's experiences fighting cancer. '50/50' turned out to be one of the sweetest, funniest and most original comedies of the last few years.

A large part of it's success is due to the casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, the unfortunate cancer victim and Seth Rogen as his best friend, Kyle. Rogen is best friends with Reiser in real life and is to a large degree playing himself and drawing on his own memories of that traumatic time. The likeability of the two leads carries the film through both the comic and more dramatic elements of the film with equal aplomb.

The way that Adam deals with first his diagnosis, then the various treatments he goes through in what seemed a highly believable manner, but what makes the film tick is the different reactions his friends, family and co-workers go through. Rogen and Levitt are supported by Anjelica Huston as Adam's mother and Anna Kendrick (impressive once again after her great performance in 'Up In The Air') as his inexperienced but hard working therapist, Dr. McKay.

There are few films that have as much heart as '50/50', that capture people at both their strongest and weakest this well. It is also, despite the subject matter, very, very funny. The scenes between Adam and Dr. McKay are awkward, intense and often very amusing. Similarly the relationship between Adam and Kyle is entertaining throughout, but with enough heart that it never feels forced or unbelievable given the context.

It's always great, but really quite rare, to find a comedy drama that manages to make you laugh more than most simple comedies, yet also deals with the dramatic elements with such skill and subtlety. Scenes involving other patients bring home the reality facing Adam, while a spur of the moment decision to pre-empt the hair loss that accompanies chemotherapy shows Levitt and Rogen at their comedic best.

The film walks comfortably in both worlds, never feeling either glib or too keen to tug on the heart strings, instead clearly having faith in the truth of this story and the importance of the relationships that get people through.

I am fortunate enough not to have any real, direct experience in dealing with cancer, but '50/50' strikes me as a pretty accurate representation of how it affects the patient and the people who know them, not hiding from the dark realities of such a brutal disease while managing to tell a story full of hope and emotion.


Funny, powerful and inspiring; a moving take on both fighting cancer and dealing with relationships that will almost certainly make you laugh and quite possibly make you cry.


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