Movie Review: 50/50

Posted on October 7, 2011

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By Geoff Ratliff

I’m one of those movie geeks that enjoys just about every genre of film. I like mindless action flicks just as much as a well done period piece. When it comes to the more serious films, I want good acting, but just as important, I want a good story; something that makes me think, and if it’s really good, gives me some real perspective on my own life.

50/50 was a film that I had high expectations for. I’ve really grown to like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Seth Rogen always gives me my money’s worth. I was particularly intrigued when I learned a few weeks ago that Rogen was drawn to the film because he had actually taken some time to care for a friend that was battling cancer earlier in his life, and was curious to see how this would play out on film. Still, I really had no idea what kind of movie to expect when I walked into the theater, because Hollywood generally takes one of two angles when making movies about life threatening illnesses or personal tragedy. You either get the completely somber approach of “Seven Pounds” – the last movie I cried at since it came out less than three months after my mother passed due to complications from a double lung transplant – or you get the movie that manages to mix in doses of humor like “The Bucket List”. Thankfully, 50/50 fell into the latter category.

Gordon-Levitt is absolutely brilliant as Adam Lerner, a recently diagnosed Cancer patient who’s life gets completely turned upside by the diagnoses. Growing up with a mother who spent thirty plus years as an Oncology nurse, I’ve spent a great deal of my life thinking about how I might react if I were to be diagnosed with the disease at a relatively young age. The movie engaged me because I could see myself reacting in exactly the same way that Adam did; and could envision one of my friends stepped up the way Kyle (Rogen) did.

If you have any reservation about Rogen’s brand of humor not meshing with the tone of this film, I assure you that is not the case. The other major players in the film are also well represented by stellar performances from Bryce Dallas Howard (as Adam’s girlfriend Rachael), Anna Kendrick (his therapist Katherine), and Angelica Huston (his overprotective mother).

While the acting was first-rate, I was really drawn in by the story. Cancer stories have made repeated appearances on the silver screen, so I applaud the writers for taking a different approach to the subject, and throwing in some wrinkles that while a little uncomfortable, make the story very relatable. There were a few moments where Rogen’s performance seemed a bit over the top, and the ending is utterly predictable, but it’s all presented in such a way that none of it appears forced. The year is still relatively young as we have not yet been hit with what is typically Oscar season, but I’d be surprised if Gordon-Levitt doesn’t get a Best Actor nomination for his performance.

 

Posted in: Movie Reviews