Could You Draw Us in a Bit Closer?
Even though this film has its comedic moments, Cancer is a serious subject, so you best bring your "big boy pants" to watch this one. Regardless, as your friendly, neighborhood reviewer, you should take my professional opinion on this well paced 100 minute movie: You should see this film.
The life of 27 year old Adam, played so well by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a most unpretentious, quirky world that Director Jonathan Levine shows us by virtue of Screenwriter Will Reiser's creation. In this somewhat remarkably normal life, Adam has a cute girlfriend, Rachael, played by Dallas Bryce Howard, a crude best friend (they even work together at an NPR-like radio station), Kyle, played by Seth Rogen (you reckon he's got that role down yet?), an athletic bent (jogs, doesn't drink or smoke), and when he least expects it - advanced Cancer. Understandably, that is when his normal world is turned upside down.
Rachael doesn't hold up very well, probably never truly loved him, and his crude best friend, Kyle, is knocked for a loop, but handles it like any good foxhole-buddy would: Somewhat dysfunctional in application of message; however, resolute in dedication to his fellow soldier. I got that, and Seth Rogen pulled it off well. Quite naturally, he crudely helped bring a messy situation for Adam to its natural resolution, when the sick boy was left alone by Rachael one too many times:
Kyle: "I was in the neighborhood - I was just on a date with Claire, the girl I met at the bookstore? My date did not go well, unfortunately, due to a lack of chemistry... and, I think, an overuse of profanity on my part. But, whilst on my date... I ran into Rachael."
Adam: "Oh, yeah?"
Kyle: "And I would like to present to you what I am going to call Exhibit... "
[Shows Adam a picture of Rachael kissing another man]
Kyle: "WHORE! Look at it! That's Rachael! And that's a fuckin' filthy, Jesus-looking motherfucker, and they're kissing! I did it! I fuckin' nailed you! I've hated you for months, and now I have fuckin' evidence that you suck as a person! Holy shit! Holy shit!"
Profane, disgustingly profane, and that is Kyle, vintage Seth Rogen, and he is Adam's one constant in his life - the one thing he can depend on. This profane reality is quite real, believable and the ever flowing river of realism in Adam's life ... until he meets Katherine, his 24 year old therapist, and Adam is just her third patient. Lucky guy. Right?
As a professional, Katherine, played by Anna Kendrick, struggles with her inexperience just as hard as Adam struggles, with all sincerity, to maintain some measure of sanity in his insane situation. Anna is the first to drop her shield of professionalism, and has to consider - maybe that's a good thing. Regardless, Adam is not ready for it, and it allows for just the right measure of dramatic tension.
Not that this film needed any more dramatic tension. The everyday, usual and not-so-different-from-you-and-me approach of this film drug me right into the thick of Adam's walking nightmare, and whether that works for you as a viewer is your own reality, but be prepared to see things a bit differently if you get "taken-in" as I did. Whether it was the fine ensemble acting (Angelica Houston, as Adam's mother, and Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall, as Adam's Cancer stricken new-friends were great), or a rather good script and the easy telling of a hard story, I was drug into the middle of Adam's life; and when the film was over, I did not know if I was the young dude with Cancer, or the crude friend, who was just trying to cope with his best bud's worst nightmare. Regardless, I was near emotionally spent.
50/50 is truly a fine film, and as its title well suggests, it will be quite a struggle to beat those odds. Consequently. Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserves a special mention for his complete portrayal of this young man advancing through what life he is certain he has left, in a real and honorable manner. He was in nearly every scene, the story was about him, and he pulled it off admirably. The young actor made a demonstrative difference. Good film.
Rated R. Released on DVD January 24, 2012.