Monday, October 3, 2011
50/50 (Release Date: 9-30-2011)
Working in Seattle as a writer for NPR, Adam's healthy, cleanly, nice-guy existence is suddenly flipped on its side by the discovery of a tumor in his lower spine. Adam has Three major players to help him in his time of crisis: His shaky artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston), and Seth Rogen as Seth Rogen (Rogen and Reiser were actually close friends at the time, not that Rogen was likely to stretch too far out of his comfort zone anyways). The women in his life, a group that comes to include a painfully inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick), try to help him in a variety of ways, but it's Rogen's Kyle, as well as a pair of fellow Chemo patients (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer), who prove most apt at helping him. Their miracle cure? Treating him normally, and trying to inject as much humor into daily life as possible.
Somewhat miraculously, 50/50 actually works really well as a comedy. Admittedly, I am a total sucker for Rogen's schtick, but even if you're among the many who have grown tired of his bawdy presence, clever writing and inspired set-ups are littered through out the film. They weave in and out, balancing with the movie's decidedly more morose moments, the tonal juxtaposition prompting many a side-splitting surprise. Given his success with humor, it's disappointing that Reiser has trouble crafting characters in three-dimentions, especially where his females are concerned. Howard, Huston, and Kendrick all shine in their own ways, director Jonathan Levine coaxing good to great performances out of everyone on board, but the nagging feeling that you've seen these exact characters in a million movies before this One is unavoidable.
There are a few other issues I could raise with the movie, it bumping into cliches on the way to its climactic trip to the operating room, but Gordon-Levitt's pitch-perfect performance outweighs them all Ten times over. Behind his ever-winning smile is a pain that increases and evolves as the film moves along, his outbursts of mortal frustration somehow never alienating him from the audience. Gordon-Levitt's big draw has always been the fact that he's simply a charming presence, and 50/50 knows just how to use that invaluable asset, drawing you in and increasing your sympathies through humor as a means of turning the viewer into a kleenex killer in the film's final third. The movie is a smorgasbord of emotion, taking you through genuine and pure bouts of love, hate, dread, comedy, drama, and every other buzz word you can think of, and its all thanks to Gordon-Levitt's career-topping performance. As previously stated, I still have a few hang-ups about 50/50, but none of them prevented me from being completely engaged the entire time, the film's emotional roller-coaster never once losing me. Gordon-Levitt deserves an Oscar nomination, and this movie deserves your attention.