50/50

Rated R 99 min. 2011

Part of what makes 50/50 a heartfelt step above the usual disease-of-the-week melodrama is how it incorporates the ethos of its generation. When 27-year-old Seattle public radio journalist and neat freak Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) breaks the news of the cancer growing on his spinal cord to his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), Kyle sees it as a chance to score some sympathy sex from every nearby babe. Adam’s co-workers are equally clueless. At a going-away party at his radio station, the assorted PC-sensitive types look past Adam, clearly anxious to wrap up the sympathizing and get back to the keg. Adam’s sexy artist girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) “forgets” to pick him up for his post-chemotherapy ride home, quickly discarding her Florence Nightingale promises to nurse him through the illness. The people who seem most sympathetic are older and wiser. These include Adam’s mother Diane (the always delightful Anjelica Huston), who is already caring for Adam’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father and two other middle-aged cancer patients, Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer), who become his chemo-buddies. Based on writer Will Reiser’s own real-life cancer diagnosis, 50/50’s critique is not just generational; the film also offers a mild scorching of the American healthcare system. Delivering the news of Adam’s cancer, his doctor sits down at his desk to read the diagnosis into a tape recorder while Adam sits across from him, gobsmacked. Instead of exhibiting any form of sympathy or bedside manner, his doctor essentially outsources his compassion, hooking Adam up with a fidgety, insecure disease counselor Katherine (Anna Kendrick), new to the job and open about her inadequacies and anxieties. It turns out that death sucks either way, but having to face it while your friends are cracking jokes and your girlfriend is eyeing the next guy in line makes it even harder to stomach. It’s a truth most disease-yarns don’t have the guts to speak: sometimes people let you down, are selfish, and disappear.

Film Credits

Official Site: 50-50themovie.com

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer: Will Reiser

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Marie Avgeropoulos, Julia Benson and Philip Baker Hall

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