Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Release: 50/50

There is a lot about the new movie, 50/50, that resonates with me.  I've been in the situation of having to make decisions that only seem like a good guess, with a pretty terrible chance of helping.  I've also had health issues that I'm sure I couldn't have overcome without my family and friends.  I'm also a huge proponent of therapy, everyone could benefit from a little help learning to deal with their lives and issues.  I also have always tried to hold on to my positive attitude about my own life, even when it wasn't going well, so I get the concept that there is a lot of humor (if it's color is close to black) to be found in terrible situations.

50/50 is the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old NPR story writer who is told he has a particularly bad and rare form of cancer, with the odds of survival giving the movie its name.  His best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) tries to be encouraging and helpful, though mostly in the getting laid department.  His girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) decides to stick with him, but is such a narcissist that all she can focus on is how it affects her life.  Adam is reluctant to ask for help from his parents, Anjelica Huston and Serge Houde, because his father has advanced Alzheimer's and his mom seems to constantly overreact.  Of course, he realizes eventually that letting someone help you makes the burden that much lighter - whatever amount they're able to carry.  One of the bright spots of his treatment is meeting some new people - specifically Mitch (Philip Baker Hall) and Alan (Matt Frewer aka Max Headroom), fellow cancer fighters, and Katherine (Anna Kendrick), his psychologist helping him deal with having cancer.

Joseph Gorden-Levitt carries this movie himself.  He is in every scene, and nearly all the events are seen through his eyes.  Some of this shows us the isolation that cancer (or any other illness) can create.  It's hard to articulate to others what it's like to be inside a body falling apart.  This leaves the movie in danger of falling hard on cliches, which thankfully it manages to mostly avoid.  Rogan is funny doing his regular shtick trying to get himself and Jo-Go laid.  But it's Jo-Go's relationship with his mother and his therapist that are at the heart of the film.  Since they're both struggling with how to help Adam, both practically and emotionally, it gives the viewer an avenue to vent some of our own feelings of helplessness with Adam's situation.  When Adam does finally break, on the night before his last-chance surgery, we're right there with him wanting to scream at the unfairness of life.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie.  There were a few laugh out loud moments, but mostly watching Jo-Go fight for the right to be "normal" again was what got me.  I didn't quite leave in tears, but it's a good movie to make you feel something.  Cancer isn't funny, but it's definitely become a part of life, and that's what movies are about - showing you what life can be. 4 of 5 stars/lambs  


Rachel said...

I have the feeling you and I went through a lot of the same emotions while watching this. I hope to have my review up this week.

Anonymous said...

I could certainly see this film resonating more with people who have gone through some of these processes. It has a frank honesty that feels almost biographical in a way.

I do like it in that respect a lot, but I don't always like how it depicts some of the characters in the film.

Still, a solid, strong film.

Castor said...

It starts slow but ends on a strong note. I liked the honesty of the movie and the cast is quite excellent. Solid flick!

Dan O. said...

Mixing humor and painful subject matter is, naturally, very difficult. The beauty of this movie is that it does so with ease, especially with such good actors in these roles as well. Good review. I hope this at least some Oscar nods, but it doesn't seem like it will actually happen.