Any kind of life-threatening disease is difficult to cope with — that is a given. We have all seen dramas about people overcoming or succumbing to serious illnesses. What separates director Jonathan Levine’s new comedy “50/50” from these movies is its honest and real, yet slightly humorous portrayal of a young man ﬁghting cancer.
The physical changes, doctor appointments and chemotherapy play an important part in the ﬁlm, but the most crucial aspect is the way Levine captures the impact of cancer on Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and his relationships. Day by day, viewers catch a glimpse of how destructive a disease can be on someone’s personal life.
Though the concept of a comedy about cancer seems difficult to grasp, Levine pulls together a funny, touching story about a 27-year-old battling the disease. What is especially interesting about the film is it is based on Levine’s real-life struggle with cancer. Levine achieves an astounding level of authenticity and touches on a difficult subject with just the right amount of laughs and tears.
Adam is a young journalist who lives with his girlfriend, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. After going to the doctor for what seems to be a minor backache, he learns that he has a rare form of spinal cancer with only a 50 percent chance of survival.
“That doesn’t make any sense, though,” Adam says, baffled. “I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink … I recycle.”
As a young, seemingly healthy man until his diagnosis, Adam portrays the frustration and feeling of unfairness that comes with having cancer at such a young age. As the ﬁlm continues, we watch Adam ﬁght for his life and cope with the ripple effects his illness has on those he loves.
Writer Will Reiser brings dark humor to the ﬁlm, especially through Adam’s sex-crazed best friend Kyle, played by funnyman Seth Rogen. His optimism and humor provide lots of laughs for the audience, even in some of the most serious scenes. After Adam tells Kyle about his chance of survival, Kyle replies, “50/50 — if you were a casino game, you would have the best odds.”
This balances out the heavier aspects of the film, bringing just the right amount of unexpected comedy and wit to the movie.
Another reason “50/50” deserves applause is it presents such a painful issue to the audience gently and compassionately, without any overly heavy or melodramatic moments. Reiser keeps the cancer storyline straightforward, and although you may shed a few tears, you certainly won’t be bawling through the whole movie.
In other words, “50/50” is not another difficult, overbearing film that leaves you feeling depressed. Instead, it simply focuses on a tough subject in a humorous manner, with endearing characters.
Heartwarming and sincere, there is more than a 50/50 chance that you will enjoy the film.