Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review - 50/50

A realistic narrative following a 27-year-old male diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and his struggle to fight it.

"50/50" is pitched as a cancer comedy however, the film directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Will Reiser feels more like a natural approach to detailing an individual's battle with cancer. Sure it houses a great deal of comedy, but so does our daily lives. Even in our own dark and troubling times, there is comic relief to be had and or seen. "50/50" merely showcases those lighter moments in an endearing fashion that helps to lessen the blow of the hard-hitting realization cancer can evoke in all of us.

As much as the title itself is a representation of the main character's chance at beating cancer, it also resembles a balance of the film's emotions. Fifty percent drama and fifty percent comedy. A combination that creates a stirring blend repeatedly hitting the audience with troubling moments but also complimenting them with plenty of gratifying laughs. The dramedy earns its R rating with a frequency of adult language and situations. Some audiences may find the humor a little crass however, within the confides of our main character and his best friend, the dialogue and situations seem natural just like the approach to the story.

It should be noted that "50/50" is just as much about relationships as it is this person's struggle through cancer. The biggest relationship being between two best friends though we also have a number of other relationships peppered in. Thankfully the relationships come across being pivotal in shaping Adam while he battles through cancer instead of being simple redundant plot fillers or character tropes. I did find the development of these relationships utterly predictable. That said, it never mattered based on the powerful performances delivered by the entire cast.

There is a noticeable chemistry between Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam and Seth Rogen as Kyle. Brotherly feels is a perfect descriptor of their relationship. The two guys worked really well off each other never giving any reason to doubt their friendship or its importance. Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off a remarkable performance as Adam though before I talk any more about him, I have to say how taken back I was by Seth Rogen. Rogen can be very abrasive and generally wears thin on my patience but here in "50/50," the actor manages to show restrain. As Kyle, Rogen produces one of my favorite performances of his to date.  Back to Gordon-Levitt, the talented actor once again shows off his chops. Gordon-Levitt is feels fragile as Adam just as much as he feels confident. He produces a tender portrayal that could very well earn some nominations (or at the very least, buzz towards a potential nomination).

The supporting cast is also fantastic. Namely Phillip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer and Anjelica Huston. Hall and Frewer play friends that Adam makes while under-going chemotherapy. Much like the character of Kyle, these friends really provide some side-splitting laughter as well some profuse dramatic ploys. Huston plays Adam's over-protective mother Diane in passionate fashion. Huston is always on point in her performances but Will Reiser's script really added some genuine backstory and character development that allowed the audience to latch on to her. There is really something to be said by how well Reiser's script fashions in simple yet effective developments into a majority of the supporting characters making them connectable for the audience. So many films try to achieve the same thing yet very few are able to do so. Bryce Dallas Howard also deserves some points for her performance as Adam's unsure girlfriend.

Overall "50/50" is an emotionally enriching experience. It houses great laughs, a few tears and some very warm unexpected moments. It is hard hitting when it needs to be and satirical in all the right places. Director Jonathan Levine demonstrates an ability to capture some of the more gentile moments in a battle we can all associate with and balance them in between heartbreaking drama and generous humor. "50/50" is by all means one of the most touching and hilarious films of the year.