Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Rating: 8 Chances
A young radio executive is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer.
I am not a Seth Rogan fan, and I had already seen the trailers for 50/50 and didn’t think I’d go see it in the theaters. So imagine my surprise when I learn that that particular film is the only movie being shown on opening night at SDFF 2011. And I figure, okay, it’s worth a try. I do like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Angelica Houston, Matt Frewer and Phillip Baker Hall.
So Adam is a more than slightly neurotic guy working on a volcano piece for his radio job, getting driven to work by his best friend because driving is way too dangerous, with a pretentious artist girlfriend who gives him abstract paintings for presents. Then he goes to the hospital and this total unfeeling jackass of a doctor proceeds to inform him he has this unpronounceable and all but incomprehensible form of a cancer, and starts mumbling about chemotherapy while Adam is plunged into darkness. And thus begins the downward spiral of cancer and chemo treatments, the paleness and the losing of hair, which Adam and Kyle combat by just shaving Adam’s head with Kyle’s ball razor. Adam is only shown to be suffering tossing his cookies once, but it’s late at night and wakes the girlfriend, who shows little enough concern for my taste. Adam’s mother is way overly concerned, and poor Adam’s father is already suffering from Alzheimer’s, so no help there. Even the weed, normally a rather controversial subject, is perfectly valid in 50/50, for it’s well known at this point that many cancer sufferers need it. That doesn’t stop the silly jokes about where they got it, the funny scenes when they’ve smoked it, or the fun conversations with the older fellows from the hospital, all high and talking smack about radio versus television. Writer of the movie story Will Reiser, who made a showing at the opening night film, went on to say that the entire radio vs. tv discussion scene was completely impromptu between the actors, which I think is awesome. Chemo goes on, Adam suffers and pushes everyone away, the selfish girlfriend Rachel has to up and cheat and get tossed, a kind of romance with the cute little new therapist ensues, and the whole thing comes down to life or death surgery. The moving scene where Adam is taken in for surgery, as he gives the awkward bro hug to Kyle and pleads for his mother as they wheel him away, actually brought me tears.
It’s rare to find a movie that can bring me tears and pretty consistent laughter in the same film. And even more rare to find a cancer story that is, for the most part, genuinely funny and heart-filled. It’s not a pleasant film by any means, but a lovely based on a true life story, and I would actually recommend seeing it. 50/50 gets a rating of 8 Chances, for being the surprising I-feel-not-so-good comedy of the year.