There are times when you leave the movie theater not only completely content with what you just saw, but also satisfied in nearly every way. Maybe your expectations were set to a certain standard and this film just managed to go above and beyond each and every one of them. You want to soak it in and live in that moment for as long as you possibly can because you don’t get to feel this sensation very often. On the ride home, you don’t talk and you don’t listen to any music. You sit there with a half-smile on your face in complete silence reflecting on this incredible piece of cinema; eager at the chance to tell your friends to go see something special. Once the credits end and you start that long stroll back to your car, this is what 50/50 leaves you with.
50/50 tells the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt); a 27 year old who doesn’t drink, smoke, drive, or even own a driver’s license. He has a best friend named Kyle (Seth Rogen) and a girlfriend named Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). Adam is a fairly healthy guy who exercises and eats properly. He lives a relatively normal life. He goes to the doctor one day for back pain where they find a malignant tumor on his spine. Adam is diagnosed with cancer on the spot. After some research on the internet, Adam has a 50/50 chance of beating this thing. The story that unfolds not only tells of how cancer can affect the person diagnosed with the disease, but those around them as well.
50/50 is basically a slow build to acceptance for Adam. He starts off convincing himself that he feels fine and is fine, but his defense slowly comes crumbling down. The chemo begins to get to Adam both physically and mentally. He learns to rely on not only his best friend, but his parents and new therapist named Katie (Anna Kendrick) as well. Meanwhile, the diagnosis has affected everyone in Adam’s life in ways he couldn’t possibly imagine. Kyle tries to get Adam to use the disease to get women into bed while also appearing to be in denial about it while Rachael begins to get more and more distant from Adam as the weeks drudge by. It’s a fascinating story that offers its fair share of laughs while simultaneously giving you the urge to burst into tears because you really feel for Adam during his journey.
This dramatic comedy is really solid all around. The story plays out in a way that feels genuine, the dialogue seems natural, and the camera work is straight and to the point but helps tell the story perfectly. As usual though, the cast is what really brings it together. Anjelica Huston easily slides into the role of the worried mother while Bryce Dallas Howard makes you simultaneously relate to Rachael’s decisions and hate her for them during the time Adam needs her most. Anna Kendrick displays this awkward charm that results in you really liking Katie while Seth Rogen offers a bit of comedic relief that only he can. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is truly astounding though. I’ve been following the Californian actor’s career since “3rd Rock From the Sun” pretty closely while catching nearly all of his films in the process. Just when I think he can’t be any more impressive as an actor, he ups his game. His portrayal of Adam is flawless and only gets more and more mesmerizing as the film rolls on.
50/50 takes aim at the emotions you rely on most to let you know how powerful it really is. It makes you laugh just as much as it tears at your heartstrings. The writing is exceptional and the cast is incredible. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is at the absolute top of his game. 50/50 is both hilarious and heartwrenching. It’s one of the most satisfying, emotionally powerful, and performance driven films of the year.