50/50 is inspired by the real life story of writer Will Reiser and his struggle with cancer along with real life friend Seth Rogen. Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds out he has a rare form of cancer for which he needs to immediately start chemo for. To help him through his problems are his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), his mother Diane (Anjelica Huston), and new therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick).
I think what I appreciate about this movie the most is that it never gets weighted down on any one aspect. There is that perfect blend of elements which makes it easy to sit through. I could certainly see the script falling into extremes by either making it too melodramatic and making it emotionally exhausting to the audience, or too jokey in an effort to make it commercially successful.
This is certainly aided by the great cast which was assembled here and how they play up to their strength. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a very good job with Adam and his struggles. He is trying to cope with the idea of possibly dying at a very young age while at the same time dealing with everyone else. He is both looking for comfort from his friends, while at the same time feeling like he has to comfort the people around him when they hear the bad news. Adam doesn’t talk to his mother because she already has enough on her plate with a husband with Alzheimers. But in trying to spare her feelings he is freezing her out. There are times when Adam could have been seen as dickish to his friends but Gordon-Levitt does his job in showing that it is more about being torn apart by all these emotions.
Seth Rogen is obviously the comic relief in this movie. Now I have not hidden the fact I don’t like much Rogen’s previous movies but here he is actually very funny. Kyle is someone who is clearly freaked out by Adam’s news, but is trying his best to roll with the punches and make him happy. I usually don’t like Rogen’s characters because he plays a man child who doesn’t care if he is a dick or not. Here he is still childish, but you can tell how much he cares about Adam. Here, it is very endearing that Kyle is a bit of a doofus because it is all for the good cause of cheering Adam up. One of the funniest scenes is when Kyle takes a picture of Adam’s girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) kissing another man and presenting it to both Adam and Rachel. Kyle is practically dancing with joy and doing air trombone over the fact he saved Adam from a bad relationship all the while Adam is shocked and horrified. Rogen does a great job in making Kyle very lovable.
There is also a bit of romance involving Anna Kendrick (who may currently be the cutest woman alive). Her parts are a pleasant middle ground where her and Adam can have funny flirtations while at the same time dealing with Adam’s emotions in relations to his cancer. There are also some good supporting characters played by Phillip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer who play fellow cancer patients.
50/50 succeeds in just about everything it tries to do. It delivers a very personal story about this writer’s personal struggles while at the same time making a funny movie. We feel for Adam and his struggles, but it never becomes too heavy for the audience. The cast and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen do a great job in carrying the material. 2011 is actually becoming a great year for comedies and 50/50 is among them. I recommend you go check it out.