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Friday, October 7, 2011

50/50 Review

50/50 Review
2011, 99 minutes
Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, and some drug use

50/50, plain and simple, is a miracle.  This is a film about a man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who finds out he has cancer and his friend (Seth Rogan) and him try to get him through it.  Coming into the film, I was expecting a nice and heartwarming film that was worth the time, but nothing special.  Wow was I wrong about that.  What I got was the best film of the year so far.  Yes, I have said that multiple times, but that shows the high caliber of the fall 2011 film selection.  Drive and Tabloid had that distinction two weeks ago, but hey, a better film came along.  No, 50/50 does not have the excellent and inventive score and cinematography that Drive had, nor does it have the incredibly unusual true story that Tabloid did, but it does have more humor, realism, and most importantly heart than Drive ever had, and that is why the film won me over.  From the opening scenes where I was introduced to Levitt's mild-mannered character, Adam, and his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, womanizing friend, Kyle, I immediately felt a connection with them and liked them.  Their normality is their charm and appeal.  This and the film's honesty are most likely due to the fact that the screenwriter, Will Reiser, based this film off of his own experiences.
Reiser's screenplay never overplays the emotions that follow cancer and it never cracks the wrong/inappropriate joke at the wrong time.  Yes, the film is raunchy, but it is raunchy in moderation, in contrast to this summer's absolutely awful Horrible Bosses. Reiser also does a great job developing all of the main characters fully, but that is not all.  He goes farther by developing the character of Adam's mom (a fascinating and heartbreaking subplot in the film), girlfriend, and therapist.  These rich and flawed characters add to the film's quirkiness and believability.  Also, Reiser's daringness to go into some deeply emotional scenes (some of the audience members at my showing were audibly crying, and I will admit I was getting teary also) adds that extra level to the story.  I hope this screenplay scores an Oscar nomination because most other films dealing with this subject and taking a comedic approach would not have been able to balance comedy and drama this masterfully.
Along with the excellent screenplay comes some wonderful performances especially from the versatile Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, (500) Days of Summer).  He plays Adam with such skill that I forgot that I was watching an actor.  He moves effortlessly from some awkward male-bonding scenes to serious emotional scenes.  I don't think this will score him an Oscar nomination, but he sure deserves to be considered.  Rogan and Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) are the film's two main co-stars who do a great job, but neither role seems like a stretch for either one of them.  Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston also turn in some memorable performances.
Overall, 50/50 is a must-see film.  Though heart-wrenching, the wonderful sense of humor (I laughed aloud many times, a rare occurrence) and characters make this one worthwhile.  Do not let the difficult theme of cancer stop you from seeing this.  This film is a small gem that demonstrates with a little money, a great script, and some talented actors, you can make a masterpiece.

-Joshua Handler

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