It’s what we 21st century people call: hipster cancer.
An otherwise healthy twentysomething, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), has a comically early midlife crisis when he gets slapped with a cancer diagnosis — and a 50-50 chance of survival. But what’s the meaning of life when you’re not sure how long yours will last?
It’s been a proven fact that cancer is a hard subject to laugh about. I mean Funny People tried 2 years ago but they didn’t really do much with the cancer angle. However, this is the real cancer-comedy.
The script by Will Reiser does a perfect job of balancing out both the comedy, the drama, and the cancer with this challenging premise. Reiser has plenty of funny one-liners and also a lot of moments that will make you laugh at just how ridiculous everybody is responding to Adam’s cancer. When his work-place finds out that he has cancer, they throw him a huge party as if he was going to die the next day, and that’s just one of the many hilarious scenes this film has.
Another great thing about this script is that the drama works so incredibly well here as well, adding so much more heart to the comedy than I actually expected. Whenever things started to get serious with this film, I didn’t feel like it was forced and instead I felt like it served all of these characters and premise very well. I mean cancer is not always a funny thing and just how Reiser was able to show hilarity and sadness behind it all was a great job on his part.
The film starts to even get darker by the end which is something that really had me falling for this film because it never got so dark to completely turn me off from the film as a whole. This isn’t just about how Adam has to deal with the cancer, it’s about everyone around him who have to cope with it as well. Some people know that their losing a good buddy, while some know their losing a son, and others know they just may be losing a potential lover. Either way, this film shows just how everybody around the person with cancer, is as affected as the person him or herself.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam in what I think is his best role yet. At first, it seemed like Adam was just going to be Tom from 500 Days of Summer, which isn’t a bad thing but then again, there’s no real range in that role for Joseph. However, when the film starts to go on, Adam starts to go through chemo and that’s when Joseph really starts to let all of his anger and frustration out. We see so many different sides to this character as he goes through this whole frustrating situation and even as dark as this character may get, we still keep on rooting for him the whole time because he is just a genuinely good and nice guy that really doesn’t deserve this, but nobody else does either really.
Seth Rogen is also great in this film as his best bud, Kyle, and and is the comic relief here that plays so well opposite of Gordon-Levitt. Rogen delivers all of the R-rated laughs we’re all so used to hearing from him nowadays such as the talk about blow jobs, weed, and picking up chicks, but there’s also an under-lining sweetness to this guy that comes out by the end of the film and is something that I think Rogen plays up very well. They work well together and I think that’s because they both seem like they really do care for each other and it’s just great to see Rogen be able to play up his comedy side as well as his softer side that we don’t see too much of really.
Anna Kendrick was also such a joy to watch as Katie, Adam’s therapist, as she plays up a lot of that cuteness and silliness to great effect as her and Gordon-Levitt create such a great chemistry together that it was almost better than his scenes with Rogen. Anjelica Huston was perfectly cast as Adam’s mother, and as always, gives a perfect performance that may be about 15 minutes of total screen-time, still had me tearing up in my seat. My one problem with this cast was Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s girlfriend who is a big bitch but at the same time is a character that seemed very badly written and had no reason to really be there other than to create more conflict for his character. Although, she was very good in the role I must say.
Consensus: Cancer and comedy may be a hard subject to make watchable, but 50/50 does that perfectly. With great acting from the whole cast, hilarious moments, and as well as some tender ones as well, this film creates a story that almost seems like real-life with characters that are all perfectly fleshed out.