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50/50: Touching Comedy

  • Anjelica HustonAnna Kendrick...
  • ComedyDrama
  • Out now
  • Jonathan Levine
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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50/50: Touching Comedy

Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a 27-year-old, straight-edge radio writer
who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer out of the blue.
Surrounded by his unhappy girlfriend, his loyal best friend, his overbearing
mother and a trainee therapist, he does his best to come to terms with his
fifty percent survival chances. 

50/50 explores the effect
Adam’s odds of survival has on those close to him. His girlfriend Rachael (Howard) feels guilt-tripped into taking care of him despite their obviously floundering
relationship  She becomes
resentful but the fear of being labeled the worst girlfriend ever keeps her from
acknowledging her displeasure with the situation.

Adam’s best friend Kyle
(Rogen), on the other hand, pitches in wholeheartedly and does what he can to ease
his friend’s stress, which consists mainly of sharing his medical marijuana. His
way of finding the bright side in the various awful situations and cracking
jokes about them, go a great way to keeping the film schmaltz-free.

So while
Rogen brings the funny, Kendrick brings the awkward. She plays Katherine, the
trainee therapist who finds herself dealing with a case that is way out of her
league. Still, she powers on with her relaxation exercises and textbook
tips, determined to turn Adam into something interesting for her dissertation.

Rounding up his immediate social circle is his mum, Diane (Huston), who he sees
only rarely due to her preoccupation with his Alzheimer’s-ridden dad. Faced
with the looming demise of the only mentally aware family member she has left,
her maternal instincts go into overdrive causing Adam to retreat as far, and as
quickly as he can.

The film’s tone is the driving force behind its success. The acting,
dialogue and airy, blue-grey colour palette combine to make a film that mixes
drama and comedy perfectly. It admirably shows how the characters deal with
Adam’s cancer while being neither overly sentimental nor blasé.

It portrays an
almost mundane cancer experience by focusing on how Adam’s
hyperawareness of his mortality affects his life, rather than spending too much
time on his ailing health and the horrors of chemo. Gordon-Levitt plays Adam as
a man taken utterly by surprise and who subsequently struggles to accept the
fact that a life-threatening disease can effect someone who steers clear
of risks as assiduously as he does. The most apt way to describe his
performance, and actually the film as a whole, is that it is restrained and very

50/50 is probably the least
heartbreaking film about cancer you’ll ever see. It isn’t sentimental,
schmaltzy or melodramatic, which isn’t to say that it isn’t touching, because it
is; only you’ll be smiling instead of breaking out the tissues.

Like This? Try

50/50 is based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s battle with cancer and Seth Rogen’s relationship with him at the time.

360 Tip

Beginners, Funny People, The Royal Tenenbaums

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