Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie Review: 50/50

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The movie 50/50 is about a cancer patient and could have taken the route of being a total tear jerker movie. Luckily we know in advance that everything ends up ok as it was based on a true story of Will Reiser who penned the screen play. Yet what could have followed the “Oh, woe is me” path instead was peppered with a number of spots that handed the audience moments of laughter. Chances of you giving out some giggles during the movie are better than 50/50.

50/50 Movie Poster
Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is 27 and single but dating, has a decent job as a writer for the Seattle Public Radio station and has Kyle (the still skinny from doing The Green Hornet Seth Rogen) as his co-worker and best friend. When recurring back pain forces Adam to the doctors, it’s discovered that he has a large tumor growing on his spine. His doctor probably went to the Dr Gregory House School of Charm and Bedside Manners to learn how to deal with his patients. No empathy or even using reassuring language Adam could comprehend without having the DR letters attached to his own name. Very understandably, when the C word, cancer, is mentioned, it’s the only thing Adam could pick out among the medical terms and immediately zoned out of his regular life and entered survival mode.

His support system is his girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard), a cold and manipulative woman who is a taker and not a giver. His mom (Angelica Houston) is a smothering mom who is dealing with the care of her husband, Adam’s dad, who has Alzheimer’s. She now has two very sick family members drawing her focus. Bro bud Kyle who sort of looks at the positive side of the disease thinking that it can be used to get some action for not only Adam but himself as well. Lastly, his treatment therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) rounds out the team although, she is not a doctor; she’s working on her doctorate degree and doesn’t have a huge pool of experience to pull from. While not her first, he is wading in the very shallow end of the pool, barely enough to cover the knees.

There are the tough moments to watch and then these are offset with some of the laughter. Young Adam goes in for his chemo treatment and meets two other patients who are much older. They are looking back on their lives while Adam is supposed to be looking forward now has this giant obstacle staring him in the face. One of the men jokes that the longer the name of the cancer, the tougher it is to beat and Adam’s type has a long name, schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma. Adam goes through the highs and the lows of the disease trying to face it as stoically as possible without being a burden on his friends and family, keeping most of his anger, fear and frustration bottled up. Katherine attempts as a green therapist don’t yield the comfort or mental processing that Adam needs to deal with his circumstances. Kendrick’s eyes help tell the story of wanting to help but at times being at a loss to convey what Adam needs.

The topic of medical marijuana came up several times between eating it or smoking it to relieve the symptoms of the chemo or in Kyle’s case sympathetic chemo nausea; perhaps, but maybe not. Is there a Rogen movie that doesn’t involve getting a party on somehow? Luckily at no time did Adam or Kyle attempt to feed the rescued from the racetrack greyhound given to Adam from Rachel as a way to help comfort him any pot brownies. The joke being that the skinny former athletic race dog about town was named Skeletor, just the kind of name that a cancer patient wants to hear.

With such a heavy topic of life and death at a young age due to cancer, the movie was rated R for drug references and use, language throughout and sexual content during the 99 minute running time.

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