’50/50′ combines cancer and comedy
Typically, when the main character of a film is dying of cancer, you can’t expect a lot of laughs in the script. That’s not the case with 50/50, which combines comedy and drama in a way that emulates the natural ebb and flow of emotions in real life to create a film that is both touching and witty.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays 27-year-old Adam, an all-around good guy who eats right, exercises and still ends up getting cancer. After a rather cold greeting from his doctor, he is told that his particular type of cancer is very hard to treat and that he might not make it. His odds or survival are 50/50 and he has to cope with his impending mortality.
His main source of support is his best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen). Kyle genuinely cares for Adam and struggles with how to react to the notion of possibly losing his friend. He deals with it like many do, by joking around with Adam and convincing him to use his cancer to get girls like it was some kind of superpower.
The women in Adam’s life aren’t much help. His mother (Anjelica Huston) has her own hardships dealing with Adam’s father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her worry manifests itself as bossiness and a desire to take over Adam’s care. His girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) vows to stand by him, though she is later overwhelmed by the situation and starts to stray.
In the course of his treatment, Adam meets new people outside of his circle who help him deal with his illness. At his regular chemotherapy sessions, he meets two fellow cancer patients who introduce him to medical marijuana. He also begins seeing a very young and inexperienced therapist named Katie (Anna Kendrick) who tries to get him to open up emotionally about his experience.
The most amazing thing about the film is the way it feels completely authentic. It never feels like anyone is “acting” instead they are just doing what they would naturally do. Real life isn’t 100% comedy or 100% drama, and the plot and tone of 50/50 reflect that. Watching Adam use his recently shaved head to try to play the sympathy card with girls at a club is funny. His early interactions with Katie are sweetly awkward, like two kids trying to pretend they’re mature and professional. As he starts to realize the severity of his situation, his alienation and frustration is heartbreaking. Everyone around him wants to reach out to him, but they are all afraid of actually acknowledging that he could die. That kind of tiptoeing around such a tragic issue feels completely genuine and makes all the characters believable and three-dimensional. The combination of Gordon-Levitt’s acting and Rogen’s humor make 50/50 a whole different kind of film about cancer.