50/50 (2011)

50/50 (2011) – This is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. You know that old cliché of “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry?” Well this movie actually probably can make you do both. Somewhat loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser 50/50 is the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young writer for NPR who discovers he has a tumor on his spine. As a man in his late 20s without any major health-endangering vices, he is understandably vexed. In his corner is his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen, playing a character based on himself), who shares his medicinal marijuana (which he has for “night blindness”) with Adam and happily uses the whole “my friend has cancer” thing to get laid.

Adam avoids the help of his mother (the always-great Anjelica Huston), who is already caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s. Instead he relies on his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), who may just be staying with him out of the potential guilt of dumping a guy with cancer. Adam bonds with his fellow chemotherapy patients (Phillip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer) and begins seeing a counselor (Anna Kendrick). His counselor, Katie, is 24 and mostly-inexperienced with this type of thing but they nonetheless form a connection. I’m sure you savvy film-goers can see where that leads.

50/50 is an actual comedy/drama. A lot of films that go for that balance tend to skew one way or the other but 50/50 manages to be riotously funny movie that is also very moving. Even the less-than-sympathetic roles in the film are characterized as fully-developed people as opposed to caricatures who fill necessary plot functions. This is due to the excellent cast and also the fact that the movie is really about interpersonal relationships. How Adam relates to the people around him during his crisis is the heart of the film’s drama. I’m not sure when the smartass kid from Third Rock from the Sun grew up to be such a great actor, but his recent track record indicates that that’s most definitely the case. Also, and I don’t mean to keep short-selling this, the film is really fucking funny. Jonathan Levine finds just the right balance in Reiser’s script. This is by far one of the best movies I have seen all year.

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