“50/50” is seriously funny. However, the movie – which, by the way, tackles the topic of cancer – is more than just that. It is also respectably realistic, powerfully poignant and uniquely uplifting.
Director Jonathan Levine’s flick – which is loosely based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s real-life experiences – carefully balances comedy and tragedy. Most notably, though, “50/50” finally gives actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt an opportunity to demonstrate that he is a man of tremendous talent. In fact, Gordon-Levitt is so talented that even his costar Seth Rogen seems slightly less annoying than usual.
Gordon-Levitt plays Adam Lerner, a 27-year old guy who seems to have it all. However, when Adam discovers he has a rare and possibly fatal form of cancer, his entire life turns to chaos. As his world starts to unravel in every way, Adam finds himself dealing with the well-meaning but totally outrageous attempts by his friends and family to make it all better.
His best friend (Rogen) uses Adam’s condition to lure girls into sympathy sex. His overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) loses sight of him in her own fears. His otherwise-occupied girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) tries to distract herself an increasingly frantic social life. And the inexperienced therapist assigned to his case (Anna Kendrick) struggles to keep up with his needs.
There are countless lessons to be had while watching “50/50” but none more resonant that the one about always approaching life with a sense of humor – even in the grimmest of circumstances. That is not to say that the flick will not threaten to extract a tear or two from you – because it most certainly will – but it also threatens to extract many, many laughs.
Needless to say, that promotes the whole “live life to its fullest up until the bitter end” philosophy. And who better to balance the two opposite ends of the emotional spectrum than Gordon-Levitt, who may be one of the most likable actors working in Hollywood – not to mention one of the most talented. His stellar performance makes feeling empathy a seamless experience.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Rogen, who single-handedly discouraged this critic from giving “50/50” a perfect 5-star score. Granted, his presence promotes the whole “laughter is the best medicine” message but his sense of humor is blunt. There are plenty of other characters who lighten the mood in a far less overt manner.
On the other hand, Gordon-Levitt, who interacts with Rogen most often, surreptitiously takes a lot of the bite out of the actor’s bark, keeping the obnoxiousness at bay. After all, there is a cap to how much offensive behavior can exist in such a situation before the movie loses its charismatic catharsis. And charismatic catharsis is precisely what “50/50” possesses most, healing every bit as much as it entertains.
“50/50” (R – 99 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.