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50/50 a really funny movie with a big heart

Sometimes a film can be elevated by its stars and other times it almost limits its accessability.
In the case of 50/50 the film in some ways is eclipsed by Seth Rogan’s presence in it. They market to his audience which looks for him to be his usual party-going-dope-smoking-womanizing character and as it turns out, that’s pretty much who he is in this film. There’s a lot more going on here than that and if you don’t like Rogan you might miss this film and that would be a shame.
For what it’s worth I’m a big Rogan fan. While he did a lot of TV stuff before 40 Year Old Virgin, that’s where he really stood out for me. His timing was impeccable and he has tremendous on-screen presence. He owns any camera in the area.
He’s written a pile of films, including Superbad which he wrote in high school out at Point Gray Secondary in Vancouver. He quit high school to go to LA to do stand up and star in films and it worked out pretty good.
There’s a lot more going on here than one extended stoner buddy film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a pretty normal guy who finds out he has cancer. There’s this great exchange with his doctor when he finds out and is shocked that he could have a tumor. After all, he doesn’t smoke, drink and he recycles.
Gordon-Levitt plays wide-eyed, out of his shoes and quirky better than anyone. Rent 500 Days of Summer, a tremendously underappreciated film and see him at his second best, because he’s phenomenal in this film. Based on a true story, written by Will Reiser, Rogan’s friend since high school. It’s his life story so it has that air of authenticity to it, and there is also Rogan’s almost manic touch in all of it, because that’s real life too.
So Rogan is essentially playing himself. Kyle smokes a lot of weed, says exactly the wrong thing at the perfect time. Of course he sees a way to turn Adam’s diagnosis into a way to get girls which in and of itself is brilliant.
Adam however has to live it.
He has to go through chemo, tell his family and friends, lose his girlfriend, shave his head, and see some of his friends not make it.
It’s a really thoughtful film that never lapses into cliche or melodrama.
Getting cancer doesn’t make Adam a better person nor does it give him any extra insight into mortality or the meaning of life.
He knows his life will never be the same and he’s scared.
His mom Diane is played by Angelica Huston, who is a really gifted actress. She fusses over him and smothers him and eventually gets pushed aside but we understand that he just needs to be insulated from the fear she reflects back to him.
Ok that’s pretty pompous. I don’t know that. I just think Kyle helps him forget the full impact and she just keeps reminding him of the minutae of his diagnosis and how serious everything is.
I listened to an interview with Rogan about the actual incidents and they convinced Reiser to start writing this film almost from Day 1 of his diagnosis.
So who knows how therapeutic it was, but here I am writing a review of a movie by the guy so that’s something. Oh sorry did I spoil it for you?
It’s a comedy first and foremost. I think that was paramount to all concerned. It’s a buddy movie and I think it’s a pretty thoughtful performance by both of the stars. Kyle understands that he’s the clown, the comic relief, and he’s ok with that role. He doesn’t need to dispense platitudes or show the tears of the clown. Just be funny and look after your friend.
Adam understands the raw deal he’s getting, and that 50/50 isn’t such great odds given the down side, but he also wants to win.
It’s been suggested that the character Rachael played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron’s daughter) was written negatively as a kind of real life payback to the woman who bailed on Will in real life. Who knows, but it is one of the perks of being a writer. Revenge is a dish best served cold and played by a shrew.
I think they made a mistake marketing this so some people will dismiss it as another silly film and it’s anything but.
It’s not redemption and it isn’t a dissertation on the healing power of humour. It has some really touching moments and you’d best have a tissue handy here and there. I mean not a mucho macho guy like me but ya’ll might tear up a little. At the end of the day it’s just a really funny movie with a big heart. Go and see it. Odds are you’ll love it. I did.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: Paul Peterson

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