As far as diseases go, cancer definitely isn’t the funniest. But after writer Will Reiser was diagnosed with cancer, he found it a cathartic experience to create a script based on his illness. As they say, laughter is the best medicine…
At 27, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is doing alright for himself. He has a sexy girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a good job at a radio station, with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen). He’s of a cautious demeanour, waiting at the pedestrian lights though the streets are empty, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t take drugs, doesn’t drink. He hasn’t told a girl that he loves her, or even been to Canada. He doesn’t have a drivers license because of the high mortality rate. What he does have is a huge tumour growing up his spine, his chances of survival are 50/50.
50/50 is undoubtedly a comedy, mixing Rogen’s trademark wit with gross-out gags, and darkly humorous moments with deft light touches. It never comes on too strong with sentimentality or sensationalism, and always seems very in touch with reality.
Dually, however, it doesn’t really delve into it’s concept. It skims over the top of a lot of the issues, and instead we find Adam burning Rachael’s art work, or smoking medical-grade marijuana with Kyle, again. More scope of emotion would have provided a depth to 50/50 that was sometimes lacking.
Only once did Adam really seem moved by his illness, and his character didn’t seem to develop throughout the picture. Perhaps that is more of a problem with society, though, expecting cancer patients to be more grateful for living once they have survived, or go to Canada just because they can.
The characters were enjoyable to watch, with strong performances given from the whole cast. Anjelica Houston as Adam’s worrying mother Diane was a great element to have in the film. Whilst she was fussing and irritating, she served to remind us that a relative having cancer is extremely tough to deal with. She also got the funniest line in the film, upon meeting Katherine for the first time. She mixed infuriating with vulnerability, and the movie was undoubtedly better off with her presence.
Rogen didn’t break any new ground, but that’s not what he was there for. His performance was funny and warm and predictable. Kendrick too was bright and perky, and whilst her story arc was predictable, it was pleasant enough to watch.
50/50, despite it’s ‘edgy’ subject matter, is a frothy, guy buddy-comedy. It has a couple of big laughs, a couple more smaller ones, and a handful of sweet, emotional moments too. It’s not a ground-breaker, but it deals with some tough issues with humour and a commendable deftness.
50/50 is playing at the London Film Festival on October 13, and comes on a UK general release November 25.