Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is 27. He has just been diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer. Neurofibroma sarcoma schwannoma, to be exact. As expected, the news of the diagnosis is not an easy one to take.
Luckily, Adam has his best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen), by his side. He also has his girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has promised to help him through it. And, of course, his rightfully concerned, but quickly becoming overprotective mother (Anjelica Houston).
When Kyle discovers that Rachel may not be as willing as she says to help Adam through this, he recommends Adam use his cancer to help him “get over” Rachel. Kyle has been using Adam’s diagnosis as a way to get sympathy from the ladies for himself. Why shouldn’t Adam be able to do the same?
Adam’s therapist, Katherine (Anna Kendrick), is young and inexperienced. She’s only 24. And he is her third patient. Ever. (It’s a learning hospital. She is working on her doctorate.) This isn’t necessarily the help he will need to deal with such a situation. She is a bit stiff and uncomfortable. But you can tell that she genuinely wants to help Adam, even if she’s not sure exactly how to do so.
Adam’s world is crumbling around him. He only has a 50/50 chance at survival. (Hence, the clever movie title.) Rachel isn’t who he thought she was. His mother is overwhelming. His therapist, ineffectual. And it seems that Kyle is only around to use his illness as a way to take care of his own needs.
Inspired by the true story of the writer, Will Reiser. 50/50 takes you on an emotional journey of the young man’s dealing with his own mortality. Given the “inspired by,” I’m sure there were plenty of creative liberties taken in the script. That does nothing to diminish the power of the story.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an outstanding job taking you through the physical and emotional pain a young man dealt such a hand. Seth Rogen, while still living in the character he plays so well, goes a little deeper. He lends the perfect amount of levity to the situation. You will find yourself laughing in one scene, then getting punched in the gut in the next. It gives you just a glimpse of what the writer must have gone through.
Anjelica Houston fits well into the role of the worried mother. She’s a seasoned veteran, so that’s no surprise. Anna Kendrick also gives an excellent performance. You can feel her anxiety and nervousness and her desire to help however she can. I really couldn’t find any problems with any of the acting. Or the writing. A well-balanced dramedy.
For some reason, 50/50 was overlooked by the Oscar crowd. I can see no reason this movie would have been passed over. Compared to some of the other films that were up for awards (like, say, a boy who lives inside a clock), this is a surprise. It definitely deserved a mention, at the very least.
This is one of those few instances where all the critics were right. I had read nothing but positive reactions to 50/50 before seeing it. After seeing it, I can do nothing but agree. Sure, there is some profanity (one of the stars is Seth Rogen, after all), but nothing gratuitous. It’s a great film, and really makes you take stock of everything in your life. Do yourself a favor and watch it.