Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick
It’s hard to make cancer funny. It’s easy to make it a moving subject for a film, but when it comes to comedy, cancer is not usually the first thing writers turn to. For writer Will Reiser, however, the experience of struggling through cancer treatment can be as oddly funny as it is touching and heart-breaking. Stemming from his own personal cancer story, Reiser delivers a script with as much heart as there are laughs, focusing intently on a small number of distinct and strong characters, performed brilliantly by a cast that includes the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Husten.
Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is only 27 when he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that leaves him with a 50/50 chance of living. Instead of the upbeat, “this could be the last day of my life!” style inspiration that we might expect from this situation, Adam finds himself floating between the cautious optimism of his best friend Kyle (Rogen), family members and his therapist (Kendrick), not quite sure knowing how to feel and act.
It it Adam’s numbness and uncertain approach to cancer that makes 50/50 deeply convincing and powerful. The film suggests that the bleakness of cancer diagnosis isn’t something that is instantly fixed and changed by doing all the things you want to do in life with a final hurrah and appreciation of the world/life you lead (as seen in The Bucket List). Instead, 50/50 shows that it is something that takes time and measured thought – a continuation of yesterday but with much heavier contemplation and a new perspective to see your loved ones, and ultimately, yourself.
With a cast that brings out the script’s wit and subtlety in humor, 50/50 looks at a young man’s struggle with cancer through an interesting and unlikely perspective. While the momentary comedic moments are always a delight and rather surprising in where they arise, the second act of the film and certain elements of the Adam’s journey feel too long and somewhat exhausted. Nevertheless, 50/50 is a ten out of ten watch, and a truly well scripted film.