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October 1, 2011
Review - " 50/50 "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan, Anna Kendrick, Bryce
Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston

“50/50” may sound like a rehash of old ideas: the cancer sob story,
the “500 Days of Summer” indie quirkiness and the Seth Rogen pot
jokes, but it really is so much more. “50/50” is one of those rare
bittersweet comedies that will leave you laughing and crying,
sometimes at the same time.

Based on the true story of screenwriter Will Reiser’s battle with cancer,
“50/50” is about 27-year-old Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “(500)
Days of Summer”), a guy who doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and does
virtually everything right, being diagnosed with cancer.

After getting over the initial shock and the discomfort of having to deal
with an anxious mother (Anjelica Huston, “The Royal Tenenbaums”)
and a shrewish girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard, “The Help”),
Adam’s friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen, “Pineapple Express”) tries to get him
to look on the bright side of things.

They go about doing idiotic things as idiotic guys do, like trying to get
laid by telling girls about Adam’s cancer or shaving off Adam’s hair
with Kyle’s razor that he incidentally also uses for his balls. It’s
endearing and makes “50/50” a refreshing new take on the
cancer/terminal illness genre.

Adam also finds solace in his fellow cancer patients, Mitch and Allen,
two old adorable men played by Matt Frewer (“Watchmen”) and Philip Baker Hall (“Bruce Almighty”). There’s a hilarious
scene where they all get high together on weed macaroons, and Adam walks through the hospital in a drug-induced funk,
making comical faces in reaction to the patients being wheeled through the corridors.
Adam’s fresh-out-of-school psychiatrist,
Katherine (played by the lovely, high-energy
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”) also provides an
outlet for Adam’s emotions. At first, he rejects
her help, insisting that he could handle his
emotions on his own, but he slowly opens up to
her, and their relationship grows as his
relationship with his flaky girlfriend disintegrates.
Their chemistry is undeniable, and it almost
becomes a certainty that somehow the two will
end up together.

Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal as Adam, carrying
the film’s humorous and poignant moments well.
Those who mostly know him from dramatic roles
like “Inception” or “(500) Days of Summer”
probably don’t remember that he started off on
a sitcom (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), and he
flaunts his comedic roots well. He and Rogen
played off each other well, making it seem like they’d known each other for years. Rogen surprisingly didn’t overstay his
welcome in the film, opting for a more subtle approach, while keeping his trademark humor.

Poor Bryce Dallas Howard was again relegated to the role of the shrewish side character whom everyone is supposed to
dislike and does her best with the character, although she isn’t given much to work with.
Kendrick basically played a less annoying
version of her character from “Up in the Air.” At
one point, each of these characters seem a little
rehashed, with Rogen playing another typical
stoner character, and Gordon-Levitt’s character
seeming like a continuation of Tom from “(500)
Days of Summer,” complete with the geeky-hip
wardrobe and indie music fixation. However,
these flaws can easily be overlooked by the
great writing and acting.

While not a perfect movie, “50/50” is certainly a
very good one that is enjoyable and touching at
the same time. The perfect balance of
adolescent humor with moments of real
poignancy makes “50/50” a movie you won’t
want to miss.