Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NN REVIEW: 50/50

Cancer. You'd have to search far and wide to find someone who hasn't been affected by it in some way. 50/50 tells the story of Adam, a boy in his mid-20's who is diagnosed with spinal cancer and has to deal with the reality of a 50% chance of death. Through most of the film his only person to fall on is his friend Kyle and the portrayal of how they both deal with Adam's situation is truly profound and moving. 50/50 has been labeled as a dramedy but the drama far outweighs the comedy as we feel the complicated swirl of emotions that comes with looking death in the face.

When we think of cancer patients we usually don't picture anyone under the age of say 65. Personally I try to avoid the movies which I know will depress me so I haven't watched too many that deal with the heavy material from 50/50. Showing someone in the prime of their life such as Adam being forced to deal with his illness forced me to think about the fact that everyone will die at some point in their lives and we truly have no power over when that time will come. How would we react if we were put in Adam's situation? Personally I think my story would be similar to Adam's in many ways. The initial reaction of numbness and perhaps failing to grasp the situation. Everyone around you telling you useless information and promising that things will be "ok" when you know that they have no idea what will happen. The pain of having to tell family members the news that is already eating you apart and having to deal with their emotions as well. And finally, as death looms ever closer, the fear that each of us has, no matter how deeply, of death. I think whether we are eight or ninety-eight when each of us stares death in the face we will be scared. 50/50 portrays the reality of a death sentence so realistically that I found it impossible to not get involved with Adam's story.

However, 50/50 is also quite funny, at times hilarious. Thank the Lord for Seth Rogen. Whether you like him or not, the comic relief he brings to 50/50 could not have been more welcome. Without a good amount of laughs I feel like this movie would have been too much for me to stomach and the relief of finding something to smile about was almost as welcome to the audience as it was to Adam. But the comedy is different in this film. It's almost as if every time we laugh, we get the feeling that we are only laughing to try and forget about what looms ahead. There were very few actual gut-busting moments; but the comedy brought to life the struggle of trying to find joy even in the most dire of situations.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is becoming one of my most respected actors in Hollywood. Last summer he took part in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in Inception and next year we will see him in The Dark Knight Rises which promises to be one of the most successful films of all time. And yet we still see him choosing roles in movies that have true heart. 50/50 is a movie about one of life's most difficult subjects but Gordon-Levitt handles the role with such humanity that we forget he was the handsome, suit wearing, bad guy fighting badass from the spinning hallway last summer. A weak lead character could have been a kiss of death for 50/50 but Gordon-Levitt makes us feel the emotions of a young man diagnosed with cancer.

Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston offer supporting roles that truly round out the movie. Rogen's bumbling character eases the tension and is the only person who is there for Adam from the beginning. Kendrick plays Adam's psychiatrist in training and the awkwardness of their relationship helps show that no one is good at dealing with something like cancer, even those who are trained for it. Huston takes the role of Adam's mother and seeing how she dealt with the situation made me think of how my mom would feel if something like this happened to me. We feel the struggle of the supporting characters as they try to walk on egg shells around Adam at first but come to realize that sometimes the best thing for someone in his situation is just to be there.

50/50 is not a movie for everyone. If you want a hilarious comedy, this is not the one to go to. But I feel that this is one of those movies that is truly important. If anything it helps us realize that if we ever face a situation like this, we are not alone. At times a cancer sentence can make a person feel alienated and it can make the people around them act entirely different. It's easy for no one and it's scary as hell. But there is also a profound sense of realization that comes along with it. None of us will be here for long so we might as well find the people we love and make every day count.

My Rating: B+

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