Grade: A (4.5/5 stars)
I remember when “Juno” was released in 2007, people complained about how a film could take such a serious subject matter and make it funny. In that case, it was teen pregnancy. With the sharp direction from Jason Reitman and the wonderful writing from Diablo Cody, “Juno” turned out to be a surprisingly remarkable movie. This year, we have another film that tackles a serious subject. This time, it’s cancer. How can director Jonathan Levine and screenwriter Will Reiser make a film about cancer so funny? Well, for starters, it doesn’t take the crude route that an Adam Sandler produced film may take. It also doesn’t beat you over the head with emotional guilt toward the main character. Yes, it is a comedy. Yes, it is a drama. Yes, it does have some emotional scenes toward the end. But it also gives you enough laughs to lift up your spirit and not think of the situation the main character is going through at the moment.
“50/50” tells the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old man who works as a radio program writer. When Adam gets diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer, he thinks it’s a joke. How could someone his age, in his condition, get cancer? But it’s true. He has cancer. He calls his mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), to whom he barely speaks. Her life becomes more of a hassle because she is also taking care of Adam’s father, who has Alzheimer’s. He notifies his girlfriend Rachael, (Bryce Dallas Howard), and his best friend/co-worker, Kyle (Seth Rogen). They all stand behind him while he faces this terrible battle. While going through chemotherapy, Adam meets a young, upbeat doctor-in-training named Katherine (Anna Kendrick), who is only on patient number three (Adam) and has never heard of “Doogie Howser: M.D.” Their conversation upon first meet is hilarious. The condition Adam is currently facing is terrible, but the friends and new people he meets prove to him that there is still a life to live and a life to love after a terrible diagnosis.
Loosely based on real events of Resier’s life, “50/50” is a wonderfully hilarious comedy and a touching, emotional drama that generates happiness, tears and laughter from its amazing script. Levitt brings such a radiant glow to his character who doesn’t give up, even when he thinks everything is over. He still goes around with Kyle to clubs and stores, being used as a sympathetic note for Kyle to hopefully pick up chicks. It sounds awful, but I’m pretty sure it does happen in real life.
Even though Rogen looks and acts the same in just about every role, his usual shtick of pot-smoking and vulgarity pays off here. His connection with Levitt’s character is real. Rogen’s comedic timing is one of the many highlights of this grim and tough to talk about subject matter. Praise must be given to both of these actors for such amazing work together. Give praise to Kendrick, Huston and Howard as well. They’re all terrific.
Levitt has matured into a wonderful actor in the past three years. From his amazing turn in “(500) Days of Summer” to “Inception” to this film, which should get him a nomination, he’s displayed such a bravura talent and I hope to see him continue his winning streak.
Opens Friday, September 30, at Cinemark 14 in Chico, Paradise Cinema 7 in Paradise and Feather River Cinemas in Oroville.
David also writes as the National Boardwalk Empire Examinerand for We Got This Covered.
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