Film Review: 50/50

When it comes to finding a topic with which to poke fun at and use as a foundation for a comedy Cancer is probably not going to spring straight to mind. In fact, I’d even bet that there are people out there who feel that it should be constantly off limits, that it is wrong to even imagine laughing at a life touched by the illness, let alone actually doing so.

But that’s exactly what 50/50 does. It takes the difficult and distressing subject, one that people find painful and instantly sobering, and reminds you what is important. That no matter how broken the bigger picture may seem, it’s the little pieces that create it. Those happy memories, moments of compassion and simple jokes that make us who we are and give us the strength to live our lives.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 50/50

I remember when I wrote my review of (500) Days Of Summer saying how disappointed I was by the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That he somehow never looked comfortable with himself or his role and that it left me at odds with him because my memories of his performance in 50/50 were so much better. In fact it was those previous memories that made me want to rewatch 50/50, purely to see whether or not I was right, or just imagining false truths!

Sadly, I have first hand experience of watching people fight Cancer. Going through radiotherapy and chemotherapy, so am in a position to be able to harshly judge Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of how living that fight looks. And I must say, he wins me over. You can tell that the film is being a little protective, and holding one step back the full horrors of Cancer, but his performance still made me feel that I was watching somebody going through the fight. He was tired, drained or emotionally destroyed at the right moments and visually in the right way throughout, even if nothing lasted quite as long as it does in reality.

Seth Rogen - 50/50

Gordon-Levitt’s may be naturally convincing, but I always pre-judge Seth Rogen. In my mind I constantly think he is an actor who never takes anything seriously. I visualise him appearing too laid back for his own good and therefore, too immature to handle a subject matter this tough. As I said earlier, it’s hard to overly joke about Cancer. And yet, somehow, while my memories are right he just works. He is silly, and rude and constantly looking for the immature joke, but it’s what this film needs. It allows you to laugh and provides you with the perfect emotional outlet. You empathise, feeling both pain and compassion towards to Gordon-Levitt but then, when you need that release, that moment to lighten the mood and lift the weight from the subject, Rogen is there and always raising a smile or a laugh.

The performances may feel inviting and correct, drawing you into the film and the characters because it feels like you are watching two friends supporting each other and thus, supporting you through Cancer, I do struggle slightly with the plot as a whole when it widens it’s view. As mentioned earlier, everything is a little protective of you in that nothing is quite as dramatic or debilitating as it really is; but also the interaction between Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick (as his councillor) is just too far beyond plausible that it actually breaks some of the seriousness of the film. 50/50 obviously isn’t a documentary about Cancer, it is a comedy after all, but their relationship twists the plot in such a way, that it felt out of place. It just feels uneasy and almost one step too far. It put me at odds with the characters I’d just befriended because I just kept thinking “that wouldn’t and couldn’t happen”.

Anna Kendrick & Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 50/50

Ignoring impossibilities in the plot, I really like 50/50. It handles a difficult subject with such passion and care that to create an end product that is as warm and enjoyable and funny as 50/50 is, is an absolute credit. Even more so, it manages to take a subject that scares the hell out of anybody truly affected by it and reminds you what is important. That the illness is never bigger than the person and that the person doesn’t change. As a film it knows what it wants to say, what it important to highlight and how if it needs to hurt you, or be uncomfortable it will, but it will also hug you when the time is right. I sat there watching it, instantly connecting to it my own memories. Situations, reactions, laughs and jokes flooding back as the scenarios played out on screen with crystal clear clarity. It’s not going to teach you anything about living with Cancer or helping people through Cancer, but what it will do, is remind you time and again why people fight, and why, laughter really is the best medicine.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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