This weekend I had the pleasure of watching 50/50 Directed by Jonathan Levine and starring; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anjelica Huston, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anna Kendrick.
For being a film about fighting cancer, the real story that comes through is the one of friendship between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. For being a supporting actor, Rogen stole this movie completely. The film starts with Adam (Gordon-Levitt) finding out he has a rare form of spinal cancer and his initial responses and reactions leading him to tell his girlfriend Rachael (Howard) and best friend Kyle (Rogen). He then tells his mother, played by Anjelica Huston the bad news. He waits to tell her for a few days after finding out because she already has a full plate caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken husband.
As Adam begins chemotherapy to try to combat the cancer he begins seeing a therapist, Katherine (Kendrick). As his life begins to spiral out of his own control, being more or less abandoned by his girlfriend whenever he sits through his 4-5 hour chemo sessions to his best friend apparently exploiting Adam’s cancer to hook up with random girls, Adam becomes close friends with two fellow cancer patients Mitch and Alan (played by screen veterans Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall respectively). Mitch and Alan have a happy outlook on life bitching about the cancer and how it’s come too soon for Adam. Their happy outlook could also be due to their embracing of pot laced macaroons and smoking with Adam and Kyle while taking shots of wheat grass.
As the movie progresses we see Adam rekindle his relationship with his mother, come to terms with the disease and struggling as he does his best to fight it. Katherine doesn’t seem to play a big part of his progress as a therapist but more as a friend as the line between doctor and patient is slightly blurred. Kyle, in his own way, does his best to cheer up Adam by making him get out of the house from time to time, trying to get him laid after Rachael admits to cheating on him and even throws a party to celebrate his life at their workplace.
The film does a good job at showing what happens when you tell people you have cancer. It’s a great look at how people react without really knowing how to help or even give positive encouragement. Gordon-Levitt plays a decent cancer patient but I never really felt any pain that he would have been going through. I’ve seen enough cancer patients during the hard months of chemotherapy and I never felt that drawn into Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal.
Kendrick also fell short of her performances in Camp as well as Up in the Air. She wasn’t successful in her role as a practicing student therapist working on her doctorate. While she played up the awkwardness with fervor, her dedication to her patient as well as the rules of the profession were significantly lackluster.
As I said before, this film was stolen by Rogen’s portrayal of the best friend Kyle. Throughout the film he seems like a selfish ass, but every time Adam needed a friend to stand by him, to help him from point A to point B, Kyle was there. The scene that is portrayed on the movie poster, where Adam is shaving his head to save the embarrassment of it falling out in patches as the chemo takes its toll, Kyle is the one who is there to help, even donating his own electric razor (Which is usually used on his ass) to help his friend.
Seth Rogen’s character made me look into myself, wondering if I could be that good of a friend if one of my friends was diagnosed with the Big C. I’d like to think yes. It also made me grateful for the friends I have around me that I know would be there for me through thick and thin. I even know a few would let me borrow their ass razors to shave my head.
This isn’t a movie about fighting cancer, it’s a movie about finding friendships and developing deeper relationships with those closest to you.