Although filmmakers for 50/50 are quick to say the film is not semi-autobiographical, but rather inspired by real events, it’s more enlightening to observe this flick knowing that screenwriter Will Reiser went through the big “C” himself. Friends with Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (producers on the film) since their days together making the hit show Da Ali G. Show, the guys didn’t know until 8 months after, that Reiser was diagnosed with cancer.
Reiser was inspired (and encouraged by his buddies) to write an original story which reflects the humor and heartbreak which collide in a poignant and often hilarious journey the main character is completely unprepared for.
Click on the slideshow to the left to see production stills from the filming of 50/50
“Cancer means that the cells in your body are mutating. There’s nothing more personal than your body attacking itself, so how do you relate to other people around you? You can’t. I wanted to show that in a way that was dark and funny and absurd, because the whole experience was so bizarre. Humor was the thing that saved me through it all. I wanted to share that.”
Set in Seattle, 50/50 tells the story of NPR employee and simpleton Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who, after a medical inquiry, discovers he has a rare form of spinal cancer; schwannoma something or other. Upon telling his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan), live-in girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and overprotective mother Diane (Anjelica Huston) of this news, he realizes those closest to him are just as clueless as he is about how to handle this unexpected predicament. Turning to newbie shrink Katherine (Anna Kendrick) to provide some guidance, he realizes she, although playing by the book, knows as little as everyone else.
Seth Rogan provides comic relief throughout 50/50, such as the scene following Adam telling him about his diagnosis. Not knowing how to react, Kyle reassures him, “You’re young. Young people beat cancer all the time. All the celebrities beat cancer; Tom Greene, the guy from Dexter, Lance Armstrong-he keeps getting it. If you were a casino game, you’d have the best odds.”
In an attempt to raise Adam’s spirits, his girlfriend Rachael brings him a gift: Skeletor, a rescued greyhound that looks as unwell as Adam feels. (Skeletor is played by William and Denver, nine-and-half-year-old littermates making their film debuts.)
His mother (Anjelica Huston) demands that she move in to take care of him, only at the weak resistance of uber-slimy girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard).
In what seems like a very risqué topic for film, producers Rogan and Goldberg, along with director Jonathan Levine and writer (and friend) Will Reiser, have successfully created a fresh story about how the young, young at heart, and their loved ones deal with an obstacle no one is ever quite prepared for.
50/50 is most certainly a dramedy; a blend of dramatic highs and lows, sprinkled with teary-eyed moments and gut wrenching laughs. At no point does 50/50 take the concept of being diagnosed with cancer lightly. In fact it seems to be a very true portrayal of the emotional rollercoaster a patient would go through, and how his personal network, ever filled with good intentions, can brighten his day, even in his darkest hour.
With fantastic performances by the entire cast, an honest and realistic story, and touching messages about friendship, loyalty, and beating the odds embedded in 50/50, this cinephile thinks the experts might be right; sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.
Click here for Denver Metro showtimes for 50/50.
Coloradoans, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out to Denver Cancer Care, which has 3 Front Range locations. They are your comprehensive resource for tools and support, connecting you with peers who are experiencing similar situations, therefore understanding what you’re going through, and supporting you through the process.
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