Since I’m married to a Very Famous Blogger™, I tend to see the new releases before most of my friends. I become the de facto second line provider of opinion if Dylan isn’t currently available for a professional consultation. They always ask, “was it good?” In the case of 50/50? Yes, it was good. Really good.
You probably already know 50/50 is based on a real guy with a really nasty form of cancer. You probably also know that real guy (Will Reiser, good friend of Seth Rogen) wrote this screenplay, so obviously he didn’t die. I hope that wasn’t a major spoiler for anyone.
The film centers on Adam and his best friend Kyle (played by Seth Rogen). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is spot-on in the lead role. He’s a nice guy, maybe too nice, and he even recycles. How can he have … this? The scene where the doctor gives him the diagnosis is simple, quiet, and jarring as hell. And Rogen is great at being his usual crass self, but there’s a touch of caring (in a dude way) that makes the role fit perfectly here.
Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, the hospital’s cancer support therapist (in training) who appears to have had only a few patients before Adam arrives on her therapy couch. Kendrick is so great at playing smart-girl roles and I love her for that. With this character she takes it even further, showing us she can be funny, sometimes not so smart, and awkward as hell.
Rounding out the supporting cast are the other women in Adam’s life — Bryce Dallas Howard and Angelica Houston. They play opposite sides of the spectrum, with Houston as Adam’s clingy but loving mom on one side, and Howard as Rachael, Adam’s hot but flighty girlfriend on the other. With Houston’s usual aplomb, she measures her existence between being freaked out with a good dose of mom-ness that we can all appreciate. Howard has already proven to the world she’s good at playing a self-centered bitch with her role as Hilly in The Help. But of all the characters in 50/50, hers felt the most flat.
Matt Frewer (aka: Max Headroom) and Philip Baker Hall also had smaller but awesome parts as Adam’s “cancer buddies”.
There’s a lot that could go wrong with a story like this, but thankfully it doesn’t. The screenplay isn’t an exact replica of Reiser’s experience, it’s been adapted somewhat. But it doesn’t feel like hyped-up, “made for Hollywood” bombast. It’s emotional but not sappy, serious but not wildly depressing, and it’s pretty damn funny to boot. It’s so wrong to laugh, but you do it anyway. Alternately, the story is still very much respectful of the seriousness of the disease and how it affects the folks who are dealing with it. Being the non-chick type of chick, I never cry at movies, but I actually got a little sniffy during certain parts of 50/50. Just don’t tell anyone I told you that.