Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, Bryce Dallas Howard, Serge Houde, Andrew Airlie, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall, Donna Yamamoto, Sugar Lyn Beard, Yee Jee Tso, Sarah Smyth, Peter Kelamis, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Daniel Bacon, P. Lynn Johnson, Laura Bertram, Matty Finochio, Veena Sood, Jason Vaisvila, Brent Sheppard, Marie Avgeropoulos
Synopsis: Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use
Sometimes life is a 50/50 chance
Several years ago, I remember watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt start off his acting career in the hit comedy, "3rd Rock From the Sun." At the time, I thought he was very funny, and showed a lot of promise for an actor his age. However, as much promise as he showed back then, could he possibly break the curse that most TV actors fall prey to after a long running hit TV series comes to an end? It's no secret that most TV actors that star as iconic characters, on television, often find a hard time finding roles afterward. This is largely because most people automatically associate them with the character so much that it makes it next to impossible to visualize them as anything else. Sure, there's a few lucky actors like Will Smith, Michael J. Fox, George Clooney and etc. Unfortunately, for every Will Smith, we always end up with a bunch of TV actors that never quite make the transition to movies. In some ways, I feared this would happen to Joseph Gordon-Levitt at some point, but I also felt confident that he'd be one of the lucky few to make it.
Not only has Joseph Gordon-Levitt proven he's more than capable of carrying a film in "500 Days of Summer", but he continues to show how great of an actor he is in every film since. With the notable exception of "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra" (Which isn't his fault, as you can barely even tell that he was in the film), Joseph Gordon-Levitt has definitely shown that he has the acting chops to pull off any role....and "50/ 50" is certainly no exception. Not only was "50/ 50" a great film in it's own right, but it's arguably one of the best films of last year.
The movie was inspired by a true story, as it focuses on a young man named Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer in his spine. Meaning, he only has a "50/ 50" chance of beating it, or he'll die. Throughout the film, we see Adam struggle to not only try to beat this disease, but it shows the emotional impact it has on his loved ones around him as well like his best friend, family, and his girlfriend during this tragic time.
Although, I can't say this is one of the best films that I've seen featuring a character struggling with the possibility of dying of some terminally ill disease, and/or possible fatal condition, but it's definitely one of the more entertaining ones nonetheless. With a film like "50/ 50", it would've been very easy for Jonathan Levine and Will Reiser to turn this film into another overly emotional cliched movie that relies completely on the emotion of it's audience; rather than telling a coherent story on it's own. Surprisingly, "50/ 50" isn't like that at all. Like "Moneyball" last year, it had a great opportunity to be one of those over the top cliche films when you look at the premise alone. After all, the premise does involve some guy struggling to beat the odds to recover from cancer, and we all know how Hollywood loves to make over the top cliched films involving inspirational type stories in ilk of "50/ 50."
Fortunately, like "Moneyball", "50/ 50" never goes for those cheap cliches that one would expect, but that's not to say it doesn't have it's own share of tender moments either. If anything, I'd have to say this film plays the tragic moments that affect the character in a rather plausible way; which feels natural to the point that it's easy for the audience to buy into it's sad yet inspirational story.
Of course, the thing that really struck a chord with me was the tone of the film itself. Granted, the film dealt with various emotional issues concerning one's illness with cancer, and their struggle to beat it, but it was how the story was told that really made it special. Not only did Will Reiser and Jonathan Levine take their time in developing the relationships of each character, but they also had the film move as a very good pace. It never came off as rushed, yet it was moved quick enough to where the story never seemed to drag on it's feet at all.
In fact, there's very little criticism that I could say about this film. All the actors, with the exception of Seth Rogen, were phenomenal in their roles. Bryce Dallas Howard did a great job portraying the alleged supportive girlfriend to Adam, and played in well with ingenious plot twist involving her character. As for Anna Kendrick, what is there to say? She always somehow manages to come off as a sweet and charming young lady in almost any role she plays. In fact, I still say to this day that the "Twilight" series would've been better off if she had been playing Bella instead of Kristen Stewart, but that's another topic to discuss at another time.
Unfortunately, the only main gripe I have about this film is Seth Rogen. Don't get me wrong, I like Seth a lot as an actor, and I think he's genuinely a funny guy. However, in this particular movie, his usual style of foul mouthed humor seems a bit out of place in this dramatic comedy. Sure, it fit perfectly when he was starring alongside Adam Sandler in "Funny People", as it was essentially a dramatic comedy about a comedian dying of cancer, and Rogen played the would be joke writer/best friend to Sandler's character. Therefore, Seth's foul mouthed humor not only fitted into the context of the film's story, but his style of comedy was able to mesh in perfectly with Sandler's acting style. Sadly, in the case of "50/ 50", the foul mouthed humor that Seth is known for doesn't seem to fit too well, and sometimes can border on the edge of distraction. Fortunately, he's not in a lot of scenes, and the chemistry between him and Joseph more than make up for it, but it's worth mentioning.
Overall, I wouldn't say this was the best film of last year, but it's definitely worth checking out. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to show the world that he's a great actor with his performance here, as "50/ 50" is definitely a must see. In the end, I'd give this film a three out of four. It's a great dramatic comedy that's well worth seeing.