50/50

52 Movies: Week 15

50/50

50/50 is a comedy about dealing with cancer that manages to be simultaneously funny and moving without ever getting sappy or desperate for laughs.

In 50/50, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in another phenomenal performance on a very human scale as Adam, a 24 year old editor for public radio who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Seth Rogan provides comic relief as Adam’s best friend and the movie is based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser who is friends with Rogan in real life and was, himself, diagnosed with a spinal tumor.

Likely owing to these real-life experiences, 50/50 manages to avoid many of the pitfalls that could sink a movie of this sort, though credit is also due to the actors and director Johnathan Levine.  The scale of this movie is very human.  There are no rousing speeches and no one has the perfect line at the perfect moment.  Indeed, the central theme of the movie is that there may not be “the right thing to say” in this situation.  Platitudes are empty and loved ones are only human.  People deal as best they are able but it is an almost impossible situation to navigate and in the end, what’s most important is that the people in your life who love you are along on the ride with you.

50/50 manages to avoid a descent into melodrama or even sappiness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the humor never becomes needy or forced.  The emotions are real throughout and no one in the extremely likable cast ever overplays his or her hand.

This movie deserves a lot more attention than it received and I highly recommend it.  4 and a half stars out of five.

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