Thursday, 26 January 2012

50/50 (2011)

50/50 is a 2011 comedy-drama film directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Will Reiser, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. The film is loosely based on the life of screenwriter Will Reiser.

The Plot

Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old journalist with an attractive girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), of whom his best friend and co-worker Kyle (Seth Rogen) disapproves.

Adam discovers he has a a rare cancer and must undergo chemotherapy. He sees on the Internet that his chances of survival are 50/50. After Adam reveals his diagnosis, his overbearing mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), who already cares for a husband suffering from Alzheimer's disease, is determined to move in with him. He rejects this offer, however, as Rachael has promised to be the one to take care of him.

Adam skeptically begins going to the young and inexperienced therapist, Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick), and although their relationship and sessions begin with a rocky start, he slowly begins to open up to her about his disease and how it is affecting him. The two develop a rapport both in and outside of their sessions, as the lines between doctor-patient and friends begins to blur. During chemo treatments, Adam also befriends Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer), two older cancer patients who give him perspective on life, love, and illness, and also marijuana cookies.

Meanwhile, Kyle attempts to keep Adam's spirits high, which includes using his illness as a way to pick up women. He also uses his friend's illness to his own advantage, to Adam's annoyance. On a date with a woman he met through these means, Kyle sees Rachael kissing another man and tells Adam, who proceeds to break up with her, despite her excuses and protests.

Although Adam at first claims to everyone that he is fine and handling his disease well, his composure slowly begins to unravel as the realities and seriousness of his illness become increasingly sharper. When the doctor informs him that his body is not responding to the chemotherapy and his only option is dangerous surgery, he is forced to emotionally confront his situation, and figure out what and who in his life is truly important to him.


The film received much acclaim from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of 148 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.8 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 72 based on 40 reviews.

Sean Burns wrote in the Philadelphia Weekly that Levine "knows how to stay out of the way long enough to let a very talented cast shine, and Rogen's fundamental, unexpected decency, which can often only be expressed through shoulder-punching obscenities, grows more quietly moving as the picture wears on."

David Schmader, writing in the Stranger, praises "50/50's stellar cast, from the omnipresent lead Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whose Rankin/Bass puppet face is put to beautifully nuanced use) to the all-star supporting cast: Anjelica Huston roars back to prominence with a twisty performance as Adam's barely contained mess of a mom, and Anna Kendrick's young medical student makes the film's rom-com aspirations not-ridiculous with her intelligent spontaneity and huge cute teeth. But the comedy star is Seth Rogen, cast in the same role he played in screenwriter Reiser's life."

The film was nominated for two awards at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. Levitt received a nomination for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).

The Cast

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam Lerner
Seth Rogen as Kyle
Anna Kendrick as Katherine McKay
Bryce Dallas Howard as Rachael
Anjelica Huston as Diane Lerner
Serge Houde as Richard Lerner
Andrew Airlie as Dr. Ross
Matt Frewer as Mitch Barnett
Philip Baker Hall as Alan Lombardo
Donna Yamamoto as Dr. Walderson
Sugar Lyn Beard as Susan
Yee Jee Tso as Dr. Lee
Sarah Smyth as Jenny
Peter Kelamis as Phil
Jessica Parker Kennedy as Jackie
Daniel Bacon as Dr. Phillips
P. Lynn Johnson as Bernie
Laura Bertram as Claire
Matty Finochio as Ted
Veena Sood as Nurse Stewart

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