Tuesday, October 18, 2011

50/50 is 50/50 on Laughs and Drama

Three and a half stars

Sometimes movies can make us think about life in general, and that’s what the new film ‘50/50’ attempts to do. I know as I watched this film, I thought about what it would be like if I had cancer. How would I take that news and what attitude would I have? In one scene, Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) go to a bar and try to pick up girls with his cancer diagnosis. That might sound horrible, but the scene is played for laughs, and the movie treats the topic in a sensitive way. I thought to myself, would I try to pick up girls if I had a cancer diagnosis? Well, we are all human, aren’t we? Though, the film isn’t a laugh riot, nor should it be. Adam goes on the web and finds out that with his rare form of cancer, he has a 50/50 chance of survival. The film shows Adam go through all the motions of this terrible news. First, he tries to play cool. Then he gets mad. Then an older friend of his at the hospital dies, and he decides life isn’t worth much. He is assigned a therapist (Anna Kendrick) who is cute as a button. She’s 24 years old and when Adam refers to her as Doggie Houser M.D. she doesn’t know who that is. If I went to a therapist I would want my therapist to be like her. It’s a little predictable that Adam is going to get together with his therapist, and let’s be honest; we want them to get together. If we can’t cheer for a guy who has cancer with a 50/50 survival rate, then who can we cheer for?

Joseph Gordon Levitt seems to be building a career of taking quirky scripts. I gave 500 Days of Summer four stars. 50/50 is a comedy with a cancer gimmick, so that’s pretty quirky. People react differently to his cancer. His friend, Kyle, tries to make the best of it. Adam’s first girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard),doesn’t take the cancer diagnosis well. Adam offers to let her bail on him if this is too much, and we get the sense she might bail on him. His mother Diane (Angelica Huston) gets overprotective when she is told her son has cancer.

At times, Adam can be a jerk, as suggested by his therapist. His father has Alzheimer’s disease, and Adam seems to skip his mother’s phone calls, thinking she’s overprotective. His therapist points out that she has a husband who can’t talk, and a son who won’t talk. That makes Adam a bit of a jerk. Adam is realistic about his disease, as I said earlier. The script keeps it light mostly. It keeps it as a comedy-drama. The screenwriter, Will Resier, had cancer himself, and decided to write a script about it. It’s interesting he picked to write a script instead of a memoir. The film is good in the way it doesn’t try to overdramatize everything, as films about terminal diseases often do. We don’t see long scenes of him in the hospital bed, giving final wishes. Instead, we are treated to scenes of him hanging out with his friend, Kyle, trying to just live life and make some small talk. It’s a little odd to watch a light comedy about cancer, and makes the reviewing of it a little hard.

When a film has a sensitive topic, and plays it for laughs, without being disrespectful, it’s a bit hard to categorize the film. I don’t have cancer, so it’s hard for me to write about this film in a critical fashion. I don’t know how realistic this film is about cancer. Though, if you do have cancer, you don’t stop living your life, and that’s what this film portrays. You want Adam to live, and you get the sense that yeah, this film won’t end on a downer. The film can proceed a bit like a standard comedy at times, and doesn’t go as deep as a film about cancer can, but I don’t think that was the purpose. The film goes on with everyday life with the disease looming, and tries to make scenes funny and sensitive at the same time. Like the scene where they cut off his hair in the mirror, and Kyle says they shouldn’t have done that. Adam questions what Kyle uses the razor for. Where is he using that razor to shave? What part of his body? Adam once again tries to make light of the topic, and much like this film, Kyle is doing a bit of a balancing act. The film is trying to be sensitive and comedic about it at the same time. That being said, it did make me think about how life can be sometimes. How things can change in an instant. The title 50/50 is good for this film. As I said earlier, I never had cancer so I can’t say what it’s like having cancer, so I’m not sure how I can judge this film entirely. I’m not sure if I would be calm about it or have a sense of humor about it, though what I can say is this movie does have us thinking about life. Movies are not a cure for a terminal disease, but they can be good medicine.

No comments: