’50/50′ balances humor with reality of disease

By ERIN BROWN

Contributing Writer

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in 50/50 as best friends. Their relationship, which is both humorous and touching, is one of the highlights of the film. Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

Delightfully humorous and touching in equal parts, “50/50” keeps the laughter and the tears coming and turns a tough topic into a successful feel-good film. Based on the true story of screenwriter Will Reiser’s own experiences battling cancer at a young age, the film follows Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old man diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has a 50 percent survival rate, as he struggles to come to terms with his recent breakup, his family and most of all, the possibility of death.  

 Seth Rogen plays Adam’s likeable, coarse best friend Kyle and the two make quite a pair. Adam is a quirky, soft-spoken, anxious sort of guy who has never driven a car in his life because it is too dangerous.  Kyle blurts out whatever comes to his mind and spends his time drinking and womanizing, two recreations of which Adam is not so fond. The relationship between these two is one of the highlights of the movie and the scenes where Kyle becomes emotional are emotional indeed. For such a crass guy, Kyle tries his best to take care of Adam and keep him happy.

Adam undergoes chemotherapy with two charming old guys, Mitch (Matt Frewer) and Alan (Phillip Baker Hall) that introduce themselves by the type of cancer they have and offer Adam medicinal marijuana-infused pastries. These guys help keep Adam sane when he gets too anxious and provide down-to-earth comic relief.

Adam and the young interning therapist named Katherine (Anna Kendrick) make feeble attempts at kindling a romance that are sweet, despite all the client-therapist ethical codes she is breaking. Even Kyle, who always disapproves of Adam’s girlfriends, likes Katherine. The chemistry in their scenes together is a little lacking, but they are likable enough in their own rights to make a convincing couple.

The only unrealistic scenes in the film are the portrayal of the hospital workers. Katherine risks her career to pursue Adam, the oncologist deals with Adam in an unbelievably harsh and exaggerated unsympathetic manner and the anesthesiologist insensitively rushes him off to surgery while he hugs his mother. Some hospital workers may not be the most friendly people ever, but I highly doubt most doctors in the medical industry with a desire to keep their job would treat patients the way the doctors in this film do. 

 Despite the hard-to-believe hospital scenes, “50/50” is a wonderfully poignant exploration of the experience of fighting a life-threatening disease like cancer. Gordon-Levitt’s winning smile and natural acting brighten the film throughout and, even in the darkest of moments the film, stays unusually upbeat for a film about such a somber scenario. The film is simply delightful – definitely a must-see.