Mar 15, 2013

[Movies] 50/50 (2011)

I've come to respect Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor more and more in recent years. From his relatively humble beginnings in shows like 3rd Rock From the Sun, he has become quite the formidable leading man. But he also continues to become involved in projects that help him grow as an artist and not just rake in the big bucks.

I wasn't 100% certain what I was expecting from this movie. I knew it was sort of a comedy dealing with cancer, which in itself is never a particularly funny topic. So I knew it was going to be somewhat heavy, especially given my own personal history with family members who had to deal with cancer.

But they still managed to present a pretty decent movie - one that nicely captured a lot of the stress of cancer treatment and all the different ways that people respond to it. And no, it's not all flowers and sunshine, and recognizing that while trying to retain the ability to laugh at one's self did make for a nice slant for this movie.

Synopsis: 50/50 is a 2011 comedy drama movie directed by Jonathan Levine  based on a screenplay by Will Reiser.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his spine and thus the initial recommendation is for him to undergo chemotherapy. When he checks his condition online, it seems he has a 50/50 chance of survival - a notion that does weigh somewhat heavily on Adam. His mother (Angelica Houston) naturally wants to swoop in and care for him - naturally he refuses. His girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dalla Howard) is suddenly uncomfortable with accompanying Adam to the hospital for his treatments. And it seems the only one standing by him his his quirky best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen).

Thus Adam starts his treatments and we see him deal with often nasty side-effects of chemotherapy. Adam also eventually starts seeing a hospital therapist - the young and inexperienced Katherine (Anna Kendrick) to help deal with his on-going issues. And the bigger one is probably discovering through Kyle that Rachel is already cheating on him with other guys.

I'm always a little wary when I watch a movie with Seth Rogen in it. His brand of comedy isn't exactly what I'd call intelligent since they tend to capitalize more on him being somewhat brutish and ignorant. And while there were still a lot of those moments in this movie, he was relatively restrained in comparison to other projects. And that's a very good thing since it made him seem more realistic as the best friend character - one who had to demonstrate his concern while maintaining the whole "bro" image.

JGL, of course, was rather brilliant. He had a whole range of emotions that he needed to go through and he performed quite admirably. And while he remains somewhat charming, he also toned some of that down (versus movies like 500 Days of Summer) and took on more of the somber nature that we had seen in his more serious dramas like Brick. And so on the whole I felt he was well-cast - and this is despite discussions about James McAvoy was originally meant to portray Adam.

I'm not sure if I really needed the somewhat romantic angle involving Anna Kendrick. Medical ethics aside, it just didn't quite seem like quite the best thing for the story. Then again, it was also nice to see Kendrick act since she's also rather impressive, so I guess it all sort of balanced out.

I felt there were some pacing issues throughout the movie, but on the whole it was still quite the thoughtful yet enjoyable experience. It certainly had its key moments of really striking a chord and making the characters most certainly feel very real. And that's always key for good storytelling.

50/50 is not your typical comedy nor is it your typical drama either. Thus the movie rates a respectable 3.5 awkward moments between Adam and Katherine in therapy out of 5.

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