October 16, 2011

MOVIES: 50/50 (Jonathan Levine, 2011)

50/50 has gotten a lot of attention for managing to be a funny movie about cancer, but I'd argue that the more impressive feat is that it manages to make Seth Rogen charming and likable.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (rock solid as usual) stars as Adam, who is diagnosed at 27 with a rare form of spinal cancer, and the movie follows him through chemotherapy and surgery. He's got a solid support network -- best friend Kyle (Rogen), overbearing but well-intentioned mom Diane (Anjelica Huston, making a big impression with relatively little screen time), and a young counselor-in-training (Anna Kendrick, finding the endearing side of being minimally competent).

There are also nice supporting performances from Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer as two of Adam's fellow chemo patients, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam's girlfriend. (Howard is, I think, in desperate need of a non-Evil Bitch role, and fast, before she's completely typecast.)

The comedy works because it never feels like writer Will Reiser is just going for the jokes; they all build naturally out of who the characters are and what they're going through -- Adam's attempt to hide his fear, Kyle's desire to be supportive and helpful, Diane's feeling shut out of Adam's life. There's also an understanding that some moments can't support jokes, and the movie pulls off its more serious scenes very well without getting too melodramatic or tear-jerky.

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