Comedies about cancer aren’t commonplace. Let’s be honest, the two don’t go hand in hand: one a deadly disease that ruins lives, the other, designed to uplifting and cheerful, the complete opposite. A cancer comedy has the potential to be one of the most offensive and worst films ever, so it was with trepidation, that I went to see 50/50. However, it was very good, extremely funny and genuinely moving.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, relatively unknown amongst the mainstream audience that this film will try to play to, stars in the lead role of Adam Lerner, the 27-year old who’s told he has a rare form of spinal cancer. This tears his life apart. With the likes of Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston supporting Gordon-Levitt, the films actors really do live up to expectations. Rogen plays…himself as always, but this is a return to form after his superhero flop ‘The Green Hornet’, Kendrick is the young therapist who Gordon-Levitt despises, whilst Huston is the fussy mother that the majority of people can relate to.
Now the film is pretty much 50/50 in terms of the balance between comedy and drama. The first half of the film is hilarious with the touchy subject, never being exploited, but some sad moments thrown in every now and then to remind the audience of their star’s predicament. Anjelica Huston is very good in her ‘fussy mother’ role, as she deals with a sick son and her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband, whilst Seth Rogen is often the focal point of all the comedy and acts as a very good foil for Gordon-Levitt, as he is not quite yet ‘lead man’ material, due to the simple fact that not many know of him yet. That’s not to say the lead star doesn’t perform well, he’s excellent as he struggles to come to terms with his unfortunate diagnosis, which ends up with his life collapsing all around him.
By all means it is NOT for everyone. The level of swearing is quite high at the beginning, which will immediately put some off. However, if those just hold out they’ll find a brilliant story with a heart. This may be slightly twisted, for example, the old men, who’re also cancer sufferers, snacking out on weed-baked macaroons during chemotherapy sessions, but there are characters that most can relate to-important in such a film.
Of course throughout the entirety, morals are learnt and the true heart of Gordon-Levitt’s character is shown as he begins to blossom as a person, as it seems his life is coming to an end. The detailed nature of the film is a nice feature too, and could be down to the fact the film is based on the real-life story of screenwriter Will Reiser. These are touches like the nervous nail-biting of Gordon-Levitt, and little references to modern day America and how people in general deal with such devastating news. The soundtrack was also as moving as the scenes on-screen and added to the entire experience, it fitting perfectly. Infact, I’m really surprised the film hasn’t performed betetr at the box office in America. I know it’s a touchy subject and not the typical Friday night flick, but if people gave it a chance, they’d find a beautifully crafted film, full of top acting, music and humour.
As the end of the film draws near, and at 100 minutes running time it is quite brisk and snappy, a sense of dread builds, the audience unsure of the ending for the character of Adam. It’s beautifully managed as the music and pictures try their best to get an audience crying into their popcorn, the goodbyes are moving. I won’t spoil the ending as it needs to be a mystery to go into the film with a clear conscious.
I really enjoyed the film, it really surprising me in both its quality and respect for sufferers, never really over-stepping the mark. i can see people who don’t really ‘get’ the humour claiming controversy, but there’s always going to be people like that! A respectful, funny and moving film- a rare feat these days, 50/50 gets an excellent 4/5. Take a look at the trailer below if you don’t believe me!