Today: February 28, 2024

50/50

The cancer charity campaigns tell you “cancer is a word not a sentence.” And they probably would add that it is no joking matter but if the film 50/50 is anything to go by, a sense of humour is definitely an asset.

The cancer charity campaigns tell you “cancer is a word
not a sentence.” And they probably would add that it is no joking matter
but if the film 50/50 is anything to go by, a sense of humour is definitely an
asset.

The title comes from the
odds that Adam (the loveable, talented Joseph
Gordon-Levitt
) has of surviving a rare form of cancer in his spine. But
this is far from being a Love Story weepy; quite the opposite. It is based on
the actual experiences of the film’s writer Will Reiser (which is possibly a bit of a spoiler) and his friend Seth Rogen who, naturally, co-stars as
Adam’s best friend Kyle.

While Adam does his best
to cope with news of his impending mortality in the most pragmatic way
possible, it is the reactions of the people around him that are at the heart of
the movie.

Kyle (Rogen, sticking to
familiar type) decides to use Adam’s condition to garner some sympathy sex for
the pair of them, especially as Adam’s relationship with his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas), is equally
terminal. Adam’s mother, the always superb Anjelica
Huston
has her own issues to deal with, and Katherine (Anna Kendrick, showing that Up in the Air wasn’t a one off) is his
newly-qualified, hospital-appointed counsellor, who has as much experience of
dealing with cancer as Adam does. The most sympathetic (and empathetic)
characters are the three old guys, including Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer, whom he shares treatment sessions with.
There outlook is even more phlegmatic than Adam’s because it is tempered by
time and liberal amounts of medicinal marijuana.

Director Jonathan Levine already has experience
of dealing with old men on dope with the fantastic, underrated cult film The Wackness which featured Ben Kingsley as a long-haired,
dope-smoking, psychotic psychoanalyst. In this film Levine keeps the laughs up
without ever stepping over the line of treating cancer either flippantly or
morosely. And, thankfully, it avoids the “my battle with my cancer” rhetoric
that fills the media with the understanding that there is no ownership of the
disease or the battle and it is mostly down to the treatment and luck against
the 50/50 odds.

Terminal diseases may
not be everyone’s idea of a comedy night out, but this delivers the laughs with
humanity and without the need for going for gross-out humour – Seth Rogen’s
schtick apart.

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