If you’ve lost a family member or close friend to cancer, as most Americans have, you’re probably not eager to watch a movie about someone struggling with the dread disease — even if it is billed as a comedy of sorts. Kish and I decided to take the chance, however, and went to see 50/50.
We’ve enjoyed the prior work of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, the two principal stars, and they were as good as we expected. Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a risk-averse neat freak who learns he has cancer, parts ways with his overwhelmed, self-absorbed girlfriend, goes through chemotherapy, and struggles with the 50-50 possibility that he might not survive. Rogen is Kyle, a crass, stoner friend who provides crucial moral support — and, Adam learns, is approaching his friend’s disease with care and thoughtfulness. Their interaction is hilarious and touching. Along the way Adam learns important lessons about himself, the men in his chemotherapy group, and his domineering, yet deeply caring, mother. The relationship that develops between Adam and his emotional counselor seemed like a plot contrivance to me, but it didn’t detract from what was otherwise an enjoyable, emotionally satisfying film.
It’s hard to imagine a movie about a young person dealing with cancer and potential death could be funny and positive, but 50/50 pulls it off.