Let’s get it out of the way. 50/50 is not Funny People 2. The only similarities between that movie and this one are Seth Rogen and the topic of cancer. 50/50 is better than Funny People by leaps and bounds. Okay, got it?
50/50 is a comedic look at a twenty seven year old man’s (Adam played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) struggle to beat his 50/50 odds of surviving spinal cancer. I saw this movie at an advanced screening near Hartford at the AMC Loews’ theatre in Plainville, CT—a theatre, by the way, that is fantastic.
I am also fortunate to have read the 2008 script by Will Reiser. It was exciting to see the script come to life some three years later. However, there are some significant changes. The subplot between Adam and his mother is almost completely gone, his job has been changed to that of a radio writer, and most of the workplace drama is omitted. The ending is also a bit different. For the most part these changes were for the better. The original script is funny, but it relies too heavily on easy laughs, stereotypes/clichés, and a rather sappy ending. In its place is a very good movie that manages to aptly toe the line between drama and comedy.
What is good about 50/50 is that it is so realistic. Adam is a young guy just trying to live his life when he’s hit with the worst possible news. The first thing his does is check webmd.com. His girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) is selfish and distant, his best friend (Seth Rogen) tries to cheer him up, and his mother (Anjelica Huston) just wants him to return her phone calls. Adam, who is so cautious that his does not even have a driver’s license, tries very hard to keep his life in control and as normal as possible. He does not make a bucket list or even leave the state. Instead, he starts going to regular sessions with a young therapist, Katie (Anna Kendrick).
The movie went through various title changes before finally settling on 50/50. In 2008 it was I’m with Cancer, then Untitled Seth Rogen Project, Get Well Soon, and lastly Live With It. All this to seemingly disassociate itself with the dreaded “C” word-least people avoid the movie, believing it to be too maudlin. Rest assured, 50/50 is not Beaches, Terms of Endearment, or even My Life. It is very funny and not just because Seth Rogan is present to give his patented one-liners. There is also a subtly to both the movie and the characters that takes 50/50 from just a funny movie to a good film. Had the director (Jonathan Levine) pushed this a bit more, 50/50 might have been a real contender come awards season.
50/50 opens September 30, 2011 nationwide.