50/50 portrays tearjerking narrative


You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when your throat and stomach somehow mesh together? That awkward moment when your eyes start to water and you sit there squinting, not wanting to cry?

Poignant wit · Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s (right) portrayal of Adam proves to be moving and comical, while the supporting cast, including Anna Kendrick (left), excels at forming a vibrant web of characters. - Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment, LLC

 

With 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, you can expect this wonderful experience amid bouts of uproarious laughter and tender, honest moments.

The film tells the relatable story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cautious 27-year-old with a meaningless job at the local radio station and a mediocre girlfriend by his side. When diagnosed with an uncommon form of spinal cancer, Adam’s life is turned upside down as he, his friends and family try to cope with the elephant in the room — his 50-50 chance of survival.

Kyle (Seth Rogen) tries to help his best friend cope with the pain by convincing him to exploit his cancer to get girls. And along for the ride are Adam’s unlikeable artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his overprotective mother (Anjelica Huston), Alzheimer’s-inflicted father (Serge Houde) and an inexperienced, nervous therapist (Anna Kendrick); it’s hard to say if one actor shines above the rest in this witty dramedy.

Unfortunately, while Gordon-Levitt gives a great performance, he seems to be reprising his role in (500) Days of Summer. That’s not exactly his fault, however, with the similar Gordon-Levitt-singing-and-strolling sequence, the side-by-side action shots a la Summer’s party scene and the costuming. Specifically, in (500) Days of Summer, Tom euphorically dances about Los Angeles once he gets hooked on Summer; in 50/50, Adam happily grooves through hospital wings hooked on medication.

Yes, Gordon-Levitt works well as a stereotypical good-looking nice guy, but director Jonathan Levine could have refrained from the vast assortment of (500) Days of Summer references. It’s simply a little too much.

That said, Levine still works wonders with the film. After all, the entire premise of the picture was on thin ice to begin with. A comedy on cancer?  That’s touchy stuff to play around with.

Thankfully, it works. For every emotional sock to the gut, there’s an equally impressionable comedic retort, helpfully relieving battered hearts. Huston shines in her role as she successfully manipulates the emotional ups and downs of an overbearing, but loving, mother.

Unexpected gems Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer give exceptionally hilarious and touching performances as Adam’s partners-in-chemo. The film might have translated as young and inane because of its young cast, but the two older men, along with Huston and Houde, add credibility and believability to the movie. 50/50 isn’t a movie exclusively for a young audience, despite young leads Gordon-Levitt, Rogen and Kendrick. There’s a little something in this movie for everyone.

50/50 is emotionally intense and captivating. Remember that uncomfortable throat-imploding-into-stomach feeling mentioned earlier?  Every character magically provides one of those moments, even the obnoxiously amusing Rogen.

Will Reiser — writer, spinal-cancer survivor and friend of Rogen — took it upon himself to weave a story of his own cancer experience that explores the emotions on all sides of the equation: victim, friend, mother and lover.  The story is based on the emotional experience Reiser underwent upon discovering he had not only cancer but a weak chance of survival. In fact, that’s where the film’s heart stems from — Reiser’s honest and real life insight. 50/50 has all the bases covered.

Reiser’s smart-aleck script, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s charisma and the solid performances of the entire cast ground a film that had the potential to come off as offensive and absurd. The picture is truly an ensemble piece, where the characters, plot lines and dialogue mesh together to form a well-rounded, entertaining work of art.

There’s a 100 percent chance you’ll leave the theater pining to spend time with your loved ones.

50/50 whether your shirt will be drenched in tears.

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