By Adele MacGregor
Inspired by a true story, 50/50 follows the painful journey of a 27 year old man who discovers he has a rare form of cancer, leaving him with a 50/50 chance of recovery. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) plays Adam, a good law abiding citizen working at a Seattle radio station with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan, Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin), living an ordinary existence until a doctor’s appointment turns his whole life upside down. Almost overnight Adam’s life becomes consumed by the alien world of hospital appointments, chemo and therapy sessions.
In 50/50 Adam is similarly awkward to Levitt’s character Tom in 500 Days of Summer, a part which the young actor plays so wonderfully well. Levitt’s straight faced dry humour will have audiences guffawing throughout the film, while his performance as a young man struggling through the various phases of disease is enough to bring many to tears. 50/50 sees Adam in the various phases of trauma; anger, denial, shock, helplessness, despair and an eventual strange acceptance of his situation.
Rogan plays a character who at once takes advantage of his friend’s horrific situation to score sympathetic women, much to his friend’s disbelief. Yet as the film progresses it becomes clear that this behaviour, which comes across as deeply insensitive in light of the situation, is merely the character’s approach to dealing with his friend’s diagnosis – he is by his side every step of the way.
With an hysterical and overbearing mother (played by Anjelica Huston, The Addams Family, The Darjeeling Limited), a father with Alzheimer’s disease (Serge Houde) and a distant and heartless girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help), Adam becomes dependent on the support of his best friend and his therapist, Katherine, (played by Anna Kendrick,Twilight). Adam’s sweet and attractive therapist is a young woman training to be a doctor, who, when she is not with patients, stalks her ex boyfriend via Facebook and is equally as awkward as Adam.
Well constructed to carefully make light of a terrible situation, 50/50 maintains the perfect balance of humour and focus throughout, succeeding in shifting the heavy and heartbreaking issue of a young man dealing with cancer with a witty script and well chosen actors. The film is captivating not only because of the well written script and careful casting, but also due to the camera techniques, cinematography and clear signs of solid directing. A particular snippet of the film which displays all of these qualities is a scene in which Levitt’s character leaves a session of chemotherapy after consuming cakes containing medical marijuana, courtesy of another patient, and proceeds to take a woozy walk down hospital wards finding everything from an uplifting children’s mural to the sight of a deceased patient, utterly hilarious.
There is an element of predictability with the film in the inevitable connection Adam has with Katherine from their very first meeting, leaving one waiting for the moment when they will finally express their feelings, which clearly go beyond the realm of therapist and patient. Nevertheless 50/50 is a film that is simultaneously heartbreaking and hysterically funny, blessed with only a twist of romance and thankfully refraining from drowning the entire plot with a tiresome rom-com storyline.
8 OUT OF 10