Tuesday, November 22, 2011

50/50 - Good Odds for Entertainment

50/50 (comedy)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Marie Avgeropoulos, Julia Benson and Philip Baker Hall
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay by Will Reiser
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Gordon-Levitt and Rogen in 50/50

PREAMBLE: The title refers to a young man's odds at beating cancer. Yes, I know. For most people, cancer is a bad word and this comedy about fighting cancer will put most people off. However, it is not as depressing as I had thought it would be and the movie has a nice balance of humour and characterisation (or information) that offers insights into fighting the disease.

Kendricks and Gordon-Levitt

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Radio-writer Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is understandably shocked when he is told that he has malignant tumours along his spine. His oncologist gives him an even chance of beating the disease, but his friends and family react differently to the problem.

His artist girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) promises support and to nurse him back to health but would not even step inside the hospital; his mother (Angelica Huston) goes into panic mode and tries to smoother him with care; and his best buddy Kyle (Seth Rogen) offers to keep his spirits up by taking him to meet girls and party. Meantime, Adam has to work with a therapist (Anna Kendricks as Katherine) to help him cope with his disease...

Howard and Gordon-Levitt

HITS & MISSES: One of the strengths of the script by Will Reiser (based on personal experience) is that Gordon-Levitt's protagonist is a likable, self-effacing guy with whom the audience can easily identify and sympathise. His Adam does not smoke, drink or do drugs - and is even cautious crossing the street, unlike Kyle who instigates him into such bad habits. Cancer has picked another nice guy!

As expected, the first half of the movie seems more like black comedy as director Jonathan Levine piles on the gags and black humour. However, it settles into a nice balance in the later parts when we tend to understand the characters and the situations better. Howard's Rachael, for example, feels compelled to commit to taking care of Adam but is quite incapable of it. Kendricks (of Up In The Air and Twilight films) provides one of her best performances as the nervous therapist who gives Adam more than professional care. The role of Katherine is a difficult and complex one and Kendricks pulls it off admirably. Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer also shine in their roles as Adam's pot-smoking fellow patients.

THE LOWDOWN: The odds are that you will enjoy 50/50.


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