50/50 (2011)

25 November 2011

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Lionsgate UK's 50/50 is an original story about friendship, love, survival and finding humour in unlikely places, inspired by personal experiences. Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emmy nominee Seth Rogen star as best friends whose lives are changed by a cancer diagnosis. Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick, Golden Globe nominee Bryce Dallas Howard and Oscar winner Anjelica Huston complete a top-notch starring cast in this warm and uplifting comedy drama which will open in UK cinemas on 25 November 2011.

50/50, the story of a young man's transformative and sometimes funny journey to health is directed by Jonathan Levine, from a script by Will Reiser, which draws its emotional core from his own experience with cancer. The producers are Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Ben Karlin, with Nathan Kahane and Will Reiser as executive producers.

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"It manages to blend together both comedy and tragedy perfectly, without delving too far into the sentiment of either... "

It seems a new genre of comedy has been fashioned. There are a variety of sub-genres within comedy – such as teen, romantic, spoof, etc – and now finally it seems there’s a new form of humour for us to all appreciate; the cancer-comedy.

50/50, written by Will Reiser – who based the story on his own personal experience with dealing with cancer at a young age, tells the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a seemingly healthy, able-bodied twenty-something, who unfortunately, is diagnosed with cancer, and given just a 50/50 chance of survival.

Alongside his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), and mother Diane (Anjelica Huston), Adam must learn to cope with his disease, and try and continue to lead his life as normal, despite his pending life-threatening operation and the realisation that death could be upon him.

It’s a poignant tale, yet told in a comical way, dealing with strong themes through the use of humour. It manages to blend together both comedy and tragedy perfectly, without delving too far into the sentiment of either, managing to avoid tarnishing the affect of each subject. 

Made on a relatively small budget and the subject of much critical acclaim at this years London Film Festival, 50/50 just works, despite touching upon a delicate subject for many people. Cancer, regrettably, is something many people can relate to, so the groundwork is already there for a relevant and relatable feature. The addition of humour to such a strong story helps to humanise the disease and allow for people to find the more optimistic yet daft aspects that come with dealing with cancer. The way Adam uses his disease for sympathy to attract women, or how difficult people find it to communicate with him on a normal level – these ideas are explored and the funny aspects to them are presented.

There was also a great deal of realism to the story, certainly helped by the fact it was based upon personal experiences for Reiser, but also due to Rogen’s involvement. As a producer as well as starring role, Rogen is not only Adam’s best friend within the film, but was Reiser’s closest friend in real life also, essentially meaning he is playing himself. His role, as well as being authentic, was also integral to the film’s success.

The vast majority of funny one-liners and scenarios are his doing, and his comic input and light-heartedness throughout the feature is as important to the audience as it is to the character of Adam – helping to find the humour from the situation and avoid a morbid ordeal.

Gordon-Levitt is also impressive, managing to combine drama and comedy effortlessly. The character worked well also, as his small, quite lean figure, especially when combined with his baldness, made for a very vulnerable character, and one that was easy to sympathise for.

Despite being quite distinctive and inventive, 50/50 still felt the need to include a romantic storyline within the feature. Rachael and Adam split up, and then the perceptibly pending romance between the patient and his therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) is just unnecessary. This part isn’t based on fact, and the romantic element is just another theme to deal with and didn’t have any significance to the story, and instead just felt like it’s put in to apply to the unwritten rules of making a film in Hollywood, where it seems having a blossoming romance is imperative.

However, the film could potentially struggle to a mainstream audience, as despite the theme being one that is applicable to many – it perhaps isn’t funny enough to gain a wide following, and perhaps not tragic enough either. I admired it for falling between the two, but could suffer in the box office as a result.

Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s a strong, emotive subject, with a good cast, and, to top it off – Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry’ was played during the movie – and any film with such exquisite taste is alright by me.

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