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50/50
Genre Drama
 
Review:

Laughter is the best medicine, but cancer and comedy don't mix - unless your name's Mike Birbiglia or you're watching 50/50. Disambiguation: we're reviewing 50/50, the comedy-drama about a 27-year-old guy struggling to beat the odds, after being diagnosed with cancer and not 50|50, the hard-hitting 27-year-old nature conservation show. There is a difference.

Cancer is deadly serious, which is probably why very few people have tried to broach the subject in film, let alone comedy. Yet, they've taken the leap of faith in 50/50, a dramedy based on a true story. Adam is diagnosed with cancer and 50/50 relays the physical, mental and emotional challenges in his struggle to beat the disease. Telling that story is The Wackness director Jonathan Levine and producer-turn-screenwriter, Will Reiser.

There's an inherent understanding between co-lead actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen and film-makers, Jonathan Levine and Will Reiser. Levine delivers a balanced and realistic character portrait of Adam, while Reiser's script offers a candid, honest slice-of-life take on living with cancer. 50/50 explores the world of a young 20-something guy struggling with cancer, giving us a chance to familiarise ourselves with the people that matter: his best friend, girlfriend, therapist and parents. We're drawn into this microcosm and are given a chance to live, laugh and cry on his journey.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) is quickly establishing himself as a dependable A-grade actor with a string of solid lead performances over the last few years. He really knows how to choose great roles that push his acting ability and 50/50 is no different. Starring opposite Gordon-Levitt in more of a supporting role is Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), the gravelly-voiced dude who knows how to have a good time. There's an easy-going chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen, making it easy to believe they're buddies.

Relative newcomers Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) bring solid secondary characters to the story as Adam's therapist and girlfriend. Kendrick continues to impress as a counterpart to Jesse Eisenberg and Dallas Howard seems to be carving a niche as that girl everyone loves to hate. Rounding off the supporting name cast is Anjelica Huston, acknowledging the next phase in her own life with a performance that carries great timing and sensitivity.

50/50 is character-driven and good-natured. The performances give authenticity to the relational dynamics between the characters, who all seem to have a sense of history. Rogen injects some reckless youth into proceedings, always trying to spur Adam on a hedonistic binge in an attempt to live life to the full. His actions are treated with sympathy and because his heart's in the right place, he becomes immune to judgement. The bad language, drug use and sex is infrequent - and while not entirely necessary, gives us a more intimate connection with Adam.

According to one 50/50 reviewer living with cancer and undergoing chemo, this movie "gets it". There's a quiet honesty to the performances and the balanced slice-of-life perspective never dips into melodrama or runs the risk of going over-the-top with the comedy. It's a bold film, based on real-life experiences and there's never a false note - making it a fascinating, beautiful and intimate film that really hits home.

The bottom line: Heartfelt

 

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