Given the core subject of 50/50 I will admit I entered the cinema with a little trepidation. A film about dealing with cancer really isn't suppose to be funny. At least, in a slapstick context. However if done right with a stellar cast, some very balanced writing, and clean direction it can be one of the most life affirming films you'll see all year. Thankfully 50/50 did just that...
Starring the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt the film tells the up/down tale of Adam, a young, successful, radio journalist who is tragically struck down with a tumour in his spine. Over the course of his treatment he deals with the flaky two-timing nature of his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his estranged relationship emotionally suppressed mother (Angelica Huston) and the playful nature of his best friend (Seth Rogen) who just wants to play the sympathy card of his friend's awful situation to get himself laid. Frankly it's nothing new in the originality department, but combined together it results in a glorious little film.
As already shown in the similarly inventive twist on the indie comedy genre, 500 Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a terrific, relatable and honest leading man. He manages to make it all look so natural on screen, very likeable, great presence and very much a delightful underdog you can't help but root for. More significant however was how sincerely moving the more emotional scenes he was in were. I'm not saying it's by any means the biggest tear-jeaker in cinematic history, but you'll definitely need a moment to compose yourself at times.
The supporting performances though competent and at times highly entertaining, felt slightly more phoned in compared to Gordon-Levitt's contribution because all the characters fitted the archetypes they're all famous for by now. Seth Rogen was just as in the audience's face with his usual obnoxious, horny stoner routine as he has been in Superbad, Pineapple Express, hell even The Green Hornet.
Bryce Dallas Howard channelled the petulant, spoiled brat that seen her through, quite recently, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help. As always Angelica Huston was wonderful in the motherly role which has served her so well her collaborations with Wes Anderson over the years. And finally Anna Kendrick as Adam's overeager and sometimes overbearing psychiatrist not too dissimilar to her terrific turn in Up in the Air.
I don't want to seem like I'm damning with faint praise, because 50/50 was one of the most joyful and moving films I've seen in a mainstream multiplex this year. Director John Levine managed to balance the brilliant screenplay from Will Reiser - who used his own personal experiences battling cancer to write the script - in such an accomplished manner.
That delicate blend of harrowing emotion and deafening feeling death could happen at any moment to this man, with those rather sweet beautiful moments which celebrate life, friendship, family and love. You'd be hard pressed, or perhaps just made of stone, if you went in and couldn't take something away from it.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's baby face innocence doesn't disguise the fact the actor is currently leaps ahead of a lot of his contemporaries. 50/50 is cinema at its most basic but most brilliant. An execution which could quite easily be forgettable or extremely haphazard in lesser hands. With enjoyable performances, emotional crescendos, a delightful score from Michael Giacchino, 50/50 is not an easy journey at times but hopefully upon leaving the cinema you'll be thankful you did it. I know I did...
50/50 is in cinemas across the UK now.