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Movie Review: 50/50

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in Jonathan Levine's 50/50

My Sister’s Keeper may be the movie for any Jodi Picoult or tear-fest fans out there, but 50/50 is the movie for anyone who has ever actually interacted with cancer (or someone with cancer) and not known how to deal with it. 50/50 takes away all of the glam, the cheesy “blessing in disguise” bits and makeover parties and, instead, inserts a cheating girlfriend, worried jerk of a best friend, overbearing mother, awkward conversations with co-workers, and primal screams directed at the steering wheel of a car.

A true dramedy, 50/50 is quite heartfelt and, surprisingly enough for Hollywood, truthful. We begin the story following Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he goes jogging, meets his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), and goes to work for Seattle Public Radio. He’s got a lovely artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), is a perfectionist at work, and always waits for the ‘Walk’/’Don’t Walk’ sign to change before crossing the road.

Everything in Adam’s life is going along at an unremarkable but pleasant pace until he’s diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. Hospital veterans will appreciate the extremely business-like and detached behavior of the oncologist who diagnoses Adam, telling him that he has a 50% chance of surviving and that they’ll start chemotherapy immediately.

Anyone who has had to be the bearer of bad news will appreciate a particularly hilarious and painful scene where Adam breaks the news to his mother, Diane (Angelica Huston), and his Alzheimer’s ridden father over a pizza dinner. Diane immediately jumps into mother hyperdrive, making plans to move in and shoving a cup of green tea into Adam’s hands, because she heard on the news that green tea decreases chances of getting cancer. Of course, getting cancer isn’t Adam’s problem; surviving it is.

On his doctor’s recommendation, he sees the hospital’s resident therapist, the fresh-faced and painfully textbook Katherine (Anna Kendrick) who is currently working on her PhD. Their first few sessions are somewhat fruitless, Adam doesn’t want to face what’s going on, and neither does his girlfriend. Kyle tries to face the entire thing head one with a mixture of bravado and jackassery. We see the quick bonding and sudden deaths of chemo-room comrades and the slow but promising relationship that grows between Adam and Katherine.

50/50 is ballsy and entirely underrated; give it a chance and you’ll find some catharsis with a side of healing as well. The movie shows everything without pomp and circumstance, which makes it all the more touching. I’ll leave the remainder of the movie as a surprise, but the biggest surprise of all was how touching and real the story is; this story has got real heart and it’s a shame if audiences let the “cancer” factor steer them away from a great tale of friendship and family.

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About Sadie Skeels

  • Sadie Skeels

    Thank you! I really recommend this film. Also be sure to check out Joseph Gordon Levitt’s project over at hitRECord.org. They have a new tragedy-comedy section inspired by Will Reiser and Seth Rogen’s life experiences.

  • Rachel

    Great review! Believe it or not I actually want to see this movie

  • Steve

    Really looking forward to this movie. Thank you for the nice review. We just need to find a babysister and get away for an night.