50-50-movieCancer, you bitch. She strikes again in this weirdo comedy about a young, prime-of-life dude (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) when he’s struck down by a big, bad tumor with an ugly face. Okay, I made up the part about the face.

Lucky for JGL, he has emotionally stunted pal Seth Rogen along for the ride, who’s there to tell him bald is a bad look on him, and that if he was a casino game, his 50/50 odds would actually sound pretty swell.

Adam (JGL) is a super cautious guy. He waits at the cross walk for the signal to turn. He refuses to drive because accidents are a leading cause of death (true, a couple of slots behind cancer, 50-50-movie_jpgd600but still). When the doctor tells him of his tumour, his knee-jerk response is  “That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I recycle… ” And we agree. It doesn’t make any sense. Cancer doesn’t play by any rules that we’re comfortable with.

Screen writer Will Reiser is using his own experience of cancer in his 20s to inform the script. His friend Seth Rogen was along for the ride and slips very comfortably into recreating the role. In real life, Rogen was apparently on the toilet when Reiser told him his diagnosis but that was deemed too gross to make the movie. They don’t pull many other punches, though: this isn’t your mother’s Terms of Endearment.

This is about a guy in his 20s 5050-007who gets very sick and faces his own mortality. Does he channel cancer sympathy to get himself laid? Sure he does. Does he consume lots of legal weed? You betcha. Does he have sex with hookers while skydiving? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, but I will tell you this: it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

This is a surprisingly grown-up script; it toggles between the drama and the laughs pretty seamlessly. It feels honest. Rogen is vulgar, but decent, and that begins to tug on you in quiet and unexpected ways. Director Jonathan Levine manages not to succumb to the usual morose 50-50_movie_screen_scene_40offerings of the genre and presents something touchingly humane. The excellence in casting extends to Bryce Dallas Howard as a girlfriend found wanting, Anjelica Huston gives a powerful turn as a fuss-budget mother, and Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall are welcome additions as co-cancer buddies. I’ll even magnanimously grant that Anna Kendrick is pretty funny as a newbie therapist trying real hard to walk the line. But it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt who’s leading the pack with a really low-key, uncompromising performance.





29 thoughts on “50/50

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  2. frigginloon

    I’ve seen it twice because a) I love Angelica Houston and b) Anna Kendrick nailed it as an out of her depth therapist c) it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt.


  3. Chris

    I didn’t know Will Reiser used his own experience for the screenplay. Somehow works making a comedy-drama about cancer. I liked it, not sure I loved it. The Seth Rogen character annoyed me, but I guess his unappealing attitude made the Joseph Gordon-Levitt character seem more likeable to the audience. I’m surprised really they were friends, being so different.


  4. Christopher

    I thought about this one when I got my own cancer diagnosis and put off watching it for…reasons. At least part of that was my own diagnosis was closer to 80/20–odds heavily stacked in my favor, and I also devoted more time to watching The Creature From The Black Lagoon trilogy, Doctor Who, and the first two seasons of Orange Is The New Black.
    Thank you for allaying my other concern that this would either be a drippy tearjerker (which seemed unlikely given the cast) or a bunch of cheap sex and weed jokes (which also seemed likely because even though Gordon-Levitt and Rogen do good work I was afraid the studio execs would throw out anything smart because cancer’s a heavy topic).
    It’s past time for me to get to this one.


    1. Jay Post author

      I was going to ask if you’ll be checking him out in The Walk this weekend, but remembered you don’t have an IMAX nearby, so I guess that’s a no!


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  6. ruth

    I quite like this one. “This is a surprisingly grown-up script; it toggles between the drama and the laughs pretty seamlessly. It feels honest.” Yes, agree w/ you on that point, I even tolerated Rogen in this, though normally I can’t stand him. But JGL really shines here.



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