50/50 is bittersweet, delicate, moving

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Bryce Dallas Howard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in 50/50 (MCT Campus)
Bryce Dallas Howard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in 50/50 (MCT Campus)

Adam has cancer. That’s the premise of the often-hilarious and more-often-heartbreaking new “dramedy” 50/50 – no more, no less. Adam doesn’t set out to change the world, fulfill his bucket list, or even reconnect with estranged loved ones. He just has to, you know, deal with it. The way normal people have to.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the last person you’d expect to get cancer. At 27 years old, he sees himself as a good, healthy, normal, even cautious, person. “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I recycle,” he tells his doctor. But cancer doesn’t play by the rules, and Adam is left to deal with the “50/50” odds that he has been given to make it out alive. On top of that, his friends and family must also learn to cope and act as a support system for him, all the while trying to keep their own sanity.

50/50 is unique and heartfelt in many ways. It is not often—in fact, never—that you see a film made that deals with such heavy subject matter as cancer in such a comedic light. In this aspect, 50/50 succeeds on many levels. Occasionally raunchy and hilarious, other times heart-wrenching and sobering, this film accomplishes a delicate balancing act of the bitter and the sweet.

Most surprising is the fact that this film has numerous moments of humor that actually fit the story and feel completely in tune with the characters’ stories. Whip-smart dialogue and unexpected reactions highlight some of these moments, such as when Adam is forced to tell his parents he is facing a serious illness then has to deal with their heartbreaking, yet oddly funny reactions. However, there is a flipside to the comedy. Some of the more racy humorous moments eventually beg the question “is this really necessary?” And this is mostly thanks to one actor.

As Adam’s best friend Kyle, Seth Rogen is my biggest complaint with the film. Never quite serious enough to fit in with the overall narrative, yet too pivotal a character to function as just the ‘comic relief,’ Kyle’s jokes and mannerisms are distracting to Adam’s story. While his role is essential, Rogen doesn’t know when to rein it in and play it subtle. This is a shame, because the rest of the cast is top-notch, particularly Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s deceitful but hurting live-in girlfriend and Anjelica Huston as his neurotic but loving mother. And Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick has outstanding chemistry with Gordon-Levitt as Katherine, the young therapist assigned to help Adam through his ordeal.

50/50 struck a chord with me. It is a sweet, sad, and sincere portrait of a young man struggling with what could be the end of his life. The film makers have tackled the story with nuance and depth, and the result is not easily forgettable. See 50/50. You will laugh, you will cry, you may even re-consider some of the small things that you take for granted in your own life. But, above all, you will be moved by this film’s honest and human portrayal of a disease that has undoubtedly affected someone you love. Bittersweet, delicate, and moving, 50/50 is 100% worth taking a chance on. I give 50/50 a rating of 4 out of 5.

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