In art school we learn that a drama is not a comedy and not a tragedy, but includes some of both. How writers, directors, and actors deal with doling of the funny and tragic side of a dramatic situation is what makes it more or less good in our eyes.
50/50 is the very believable story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year old all around nice guy who is diagnosed with a rare form of malignant tumor in his spine. His perception of life and the people around him are immediately changed and continues to evolve as he faces the devastation of cancer treatments and subsequent diagnoses of his progress. You can enjoy (please notice that it says “enjoy” and not “endure”) the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi727620889/.
It is taking chances on films like this one where actors as good as Joseph Gordon-Levitt get anywhere in the film industry. Here is a great character actor that has proven himself on both television (where at a tender age he had to hold his own beside the megalohistrionic John Lithgow on 3rd Rock From the Sun) and films (Hescher, Inception) for a very long time and he is just now beginning to get the leading roles he so richly deserves.
Seth Rogen as friend Kyle, Anna Kendrick as therapist Katie McKay, Bryce Dallas Howard as heartless and immature Rachael, and most of all Oscar winner Anjelica Huston as Adam’s mother turn out great supporting performances.
This is a dark drama superbly written by Will Reiser and directed with an artful use of every single frame by Jonathan Levine. The music chosen for the film emphazises the evolving moods, and the cast of luminaries does it honor. The film doesn’t just give us a picture of a healthy young man and then takes everything away from him. No, it slowly peels away the layers of frustration which people facing life threatening conditions have to experience. The injection of humor into such a pathetic situation is masterful (like the scerne of the “killing” of the painting). It also deals with complex subjects that are in the news constantly, like medical use of marihuana, unfaithfulness, ethical patient treatment, and euthanasia of greyhounds just to mention a few.
The film allows Joseph Gordon-Levitt to regale us with a gamut of feelings and a transformation that is depressing and, in the end, inspirational. We get to love his bonding with the other patients, the integrity of a best friend who knows that his place is in the cheering section, the naivete of the therapist, and see first-hand in Gordon-Levitt’s performance the pathos of his character as he finds peace of mind amid his sense of loss.
This film will undoubtedly draw comparisons to many other recent films that have dealt with a similar topic: Funny People, Love And Other Drugs. And that is where the comparisons end. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance is heart breaking and uplifting at the same time. And he is able to maintain the quality of his performance (a man we love even when he is lost in his numbing pain) until the end.
Seth Rogen plays the same character he always plays, himself. Anna Kendrick seems to, yet again, have this childish vulnerability that comes through in most of her roles. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Adam’s selfish and calculating girlfriend with panache, it is all out there: not for one second do we mistake her intentions. Angelica Huston is Adam’s over bearing mother who is also dealing with a husband with advanced Alzheimer’s, and her measured performance attests to her genial pedigree and experience as an actress.
I know I cried and then laughed as I enjoyed 50/50. The audience that agreed to be interviewed confessed to the same emotions. So we are sure you will enjoy it as much as we did, 100 percent. This is the kind of film everyone should see. It is uplifting even when it touches on its most tragic moments. We are sorry that it airs so early in the award season and hope that is tinds its well deserved niche at nomination time (it is never too early to speak about awards when confronted by such quality).
It will screen several times between now and when it opens on September 30th, so you will hearing the buzz around it long before it opens. And I trust you will put it on your “must-not-miss” list of hits. From Beautiful Beantown on the banks of the Mighty Chuckie, for The Examiner, this is Lily.