Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

’50/50′ Review: Perfect Mix of Hilarity and Tears

A perfect blend of hilarious one-liners and tear jerking moments makes ‘50/50’ every moviegoer’s dream dramedy.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old who lives a healthy lifestyle and has his whole life ahead of him. He enjoys his job as a writer for radio programs and is working towards taking the next step with his girlfriend. When Adam starts to have back problems, he does the right thing and gets it checked out. Adam’s world is completely turned upside down when an unsympathetic doctor tells him he has a rare form of spinal cancer and even after surgery, only has a small chance of survival. The rest of the film takes the audience through Adam’s struggle to fight cancer.

This movie could have been just a sad, slow-moving story if it weren’t for its star and supporting cast. Seth Rogen successfully plays joking, but well-intentioned best friend, Kyle, who interjects the most hilarious and witty one-liners throughout the film. Anna Kendrick tops her performance from ‘Up in the Air’ taking on the role as the young, awkward, but cute therapist, Katie. Katie is working on getting her doctorate by ‘practicing’ patient therapy and Adam is one of her first patients. Bryce Dallas Howard nails the manipulative but sexy girlfriend, Rachael, and Angelica Huston plays the lovable, worried mother who is scared to death for her son’s life.

Since Adam can’t drive, he has to rely on the people around him to get to his treatments. Rachael agrees to help him through everything, although quickly we see she isn’t up for it and their relationship falls to pieces. Kyle tries to cheer him up by getting Adam to concentrate on two things: sex and smoking pot. Things turn sour when Adam’s condition worsens and everyone realizes he could die during surgery.

Gordon-Levitt doesn’t seem too far off from his quirky, nerdy character from ‘(500) Days of Summer’ but as his cancer progresses and the chemo takes over his body we start to see him transform emotionally and physically. He pulls a ‘Demi Moore’ and shaves his head while the camera is shooting. However it’s not just about the shaved head, it’s the way he changes the movement of his whole being as his body submits to the sickness.

Rogen provides some of the best comic relief I have ever seen in a film with such serious subject-matter as this one. The jokes are timed perfectly and Rogen is fantastic at delivering them. He and Gordon-Levitt work impeccably well together onscreen and the depth to their relationship doesn’t come out until much later in the film. The relationship is relatable to anyone who has struggled with the fact that someone they love is undergoing cancer.

And perhaps no one is cast better in this film than Angelica Huston who plays Adam’s mother just beautifully. Her role in the movie is small, but it is key to its success. Her performance itself is heartbreaking enough that it makes you want to reach through the screen and hug her.

I can’t remember the last time I had a full mix of emotions while watching a film in the theatre. ‘50’50’ is light and dark, but it’s casual enough for a fun night of entertainment. ‘50/50’ is one of the best films of 2011.

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