Cancer – just the thought of it is enough to evoke tremendous feelings of dread and worry from most of us. Everyone has, at some point, experienced the hardships of cancer either themselves or through a close friend or family member. It’s one of today’s most focused-upon diseases, with dozens of walks and fundraisers occurring year-round to raise money for cancer research. Given all of this, it would seem highly improbable that a film about something as disheartening as cancer could be – of all things – a comedy. Yet this is what we have in 50/50, a friendship movie about two buddies trying to make it through the trials of cancer.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, the patient with fifty-fifty odds who must come to terms with his own possible demise before he has even reached the age of thirty. As usual, Gordon-Levitt brings a true humility and realism to his role in a way that gains our trust early on in the film. Seth Rogen plays Adam’s friend, Kyle, who is a beer-guzzling-girl-crazy-slob of a fellow, and who is depicted with perfection by the loud-mouthed Rogen. Angelica Huston, too, makes her mark as Adam’s obsessively concerned mother, and who leaves a small impact by giving us some depth into a stand-offish relationship between mother and son. And finally, there is Anna Kendrick – a breath of fresh air as always, giving her character of Adam’s psychiatrist/love-interest an authentic nature of insecurity, along with her usual, indispensible charm.
The film has all indications of being a wonderful, feel-good experience – despite the constant profanity on the part of Rogen, as well as scenes of pot smoking by the cancer patients. It does contain several inspiring moments, and makes good use of its highly capable cast, which also includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall.
Yet the truth is… it just doesn’t stand out. With so bold a concept and so talented a cast, one would expect this movie to have true staying power. But in fact, it lacks any real depth, and even while it hints at some more profound emotions, it never quite has the nerve to take us to those places. Perhaps it was screenwriter Will Resier’s own experiences with cancer that prevented him from fully expressing the pain of the ordeal – or perhaps it was simply a lack of fully empathetic direction.
All the same, 50/50 does manage to make something of its central concept – enough to make me feel a bit teary-eyed when it came time for Adam to face his fate. I did enjoy this movie, but aside from a possible Golden Globe nomination, it is – sadly – not going to last.