50/50 film review

When 50/50 (2011) came out in theaters, I couldn’t help but think, ‘This would be a horrible theater movie.’ I made my assumption upon knowing the feature was about a man diagnosed with cancer.  After all, there are so many instances where people we know, loved ones, get cancer and we know how crappy the outcomes for a lack of better words. So the idea of watching someone go through all the pain and agony on-screen did not seem like my cup of tea.  Plus, no one needed to see a repeat of me walking out of the theater bawling like I did with The Notebook.

Upon viewing the feature finally, 50/50 is a film that I wish I had seen in theaters. One has to agree with Roger Ebert who wrote “50/50 isn’t completely true to life, but the more you know about cancer, the less you want it to be.” The truth of the matter is 50/50 takes us through the pain and agony of cancer, but brings us humor to a very serious disease. Sometimes we have to remember to bring humor to these situations and reminds me of the time a friend’s father of mine lost his foot in an accident at work. When calling to the hospital, he promptly told my parents that we needed to bring him the film Footloose (1984) so he could be entertained. They are both serious matters, but one truly does have to mix in some good with the bad in these situations because that is the only one a person can stay sane at the end of the day.

The synopsis of 50/50, which is also inspired by a true story, is about a young man, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) that is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Upon finding out, he slowly begins telling those in his life, who all have various reactions. Regardless, they all begin to attempt to help Adam deal with this news. Some do so in questionable ways, but others seem as if they will be there for him forever without any questions. As Adam comes to terms with who is truly there for him, and ultimately who is not, we watch him learn to cope with his cancer.

As we take this journey with Adam, audiences see a film that award shows should have recognized that award season. Gordon-Levitt gives yet another amazing performance in his career, and probably his best thus far. His range of emotional ups and downs within the feature are nothing less than spectacular.  We want to continue on this journey with him and begin to pray for the best for him.  In a way the audience becomes Adam’s built-in support system as we feel his lows and we yearn for his highs.  Anna Kendrick is absolutely amazing as Adam’s therapist.  She is kind, considerate, and honest.  All great qualities to offer a patient dealing which such an uphill battle as cancer.  And much like most of those around him, encourages him along the way to continue being the person he was prior to his diagnosis.

In addition, Seth Rogen provides a few more laughs than we expect to get out of the film and I for one am thankful for his character. Anjelica Huston is simply fantastic through everything she has to deal within the film and provides one of the strongest female characters in cinema history. And finally, I must mention Bryce Dallas Howard who one loves to hate in this film. Lord knows this is something when she started her acting career I never thought I would be saying, but the fact she manages to make me hate her means she is doing a damn fine job.  

Finally, 50/50 is a feature that one should watch, especially if they know someone who has been through a fight with cancer or is currently fighting the disease. The film makes a hopeless situation bearable and is one primary reason I have to suggest this film to others. Often times in life we find ourselves feeling hopeless, we find ourselves wanting to give up on our faith because we do not see any bright light coming in our future. The sun is never going to shine again. These are all thoughts that one should not feel badly about at the end of the day. In fact, they are completely normal thoughts and justified on most days.

However, movies like 50/50 are made to give us hope and make us realize that why we do lose people to this horrible disease that no one should have to battle through, there are a few lucky people. I hope one day with more research we will have a few lucky more, but until then we can at least remember that not all moments when one is fighting for their life are sorrowful.


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