Cancer is no laughing matter. Life, however, is. In 50/50, which can best be described as a "cancer comedy", director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser prove that disease can be just as humorous as it is frightening. 50/50 is one of the best movies of 2011.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, a normal 20-something guy with a beautiful girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and an obnoxious but good-hearted best friend named Kyle (Seth Rogen). His life is turned upside down when he learns that he has a rare form of cancer. Suddenly, the way his friends, coworkers, family and girlfriend treat him changes and he learns just how alone he really is.
Sounds funny, doesn't it?
50/50 is a serious movie, and yet it is through and through a comedy. It treats the subject of cancer with gravity, but Levine and Reiser maintain a consistent level of humor throughout. It's a strange blend of genres and tone and has no right working, but the filmmakers find the perfect balance. As a comedy, 50/50 is excellent, and as a drama about cancer and potential death, it is also excellent.
I continue to maintain that Gordon-Levitt is one of the most underrated actors working today. Over the last several years, from The Lookout to (500) Days of Summer, and more recently Hesher, Gordon-Levitt has delivered superb, understated performances. 50/50 gives audiences his best performance to date, and one of the best overall of the year. Believable and emotional, relatable and funny, Gordon-Levitt helps make the movie what it is.
Rogen also gives the best performance of his career. Though not significantly different from his other roles - he's still goofy and foulmouthed - Rogen's character has a little more gravitas, more sincerity than previously seen. Rogen embraces the character wholeheartedly. He has always played believable albeit sometimes over-the-top young men (The Green Hornet excluded) - most guys have had, at one time or another, a friend like him - and in 50/50 he finally gets to play against a more serious topic. It's an unorthodox pairing, but one that works.
The highlight of the film, however, is the chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), who plays his just-out-of-school therapist and potential love interest. Every scene they have together brings a smile to the fact; Kendrick shows that her Oscar nomination was no fluke.
50/50 is one of those rare movies that few people have seen but that most would like; its perfect blend of comedy and drama and chemistry between the cast make it one of the rewarding, enjoyable and best movies of 2011.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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