Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Movie Review: "50/50"
Adam is an ordinary 20-something: he has a job that he is passionate about, he has a girlfriend that his best friend despises, and he just happens to get diagnosed with a rare cancer that leaves his life chances at 50/50.
50/50 is a rarity of the cinematic landscape. It deals with cancer in not a sentimental, Bucket List kind of way, but rather in a way that feels authentic. Adam does not embark on a vast journey to live his life to his fullest, he actually deteriorates before our eyes, having moments where he is happy due to the rapport and humor he has with his best friend Kyle, and at other times he is exceedingly grumpy.
To be honest, the real star is writer Will Reiser, who wrote the story from his own personal battle with being a guy in his mid-20s diagnosed with cancer. This is what makes the story authentic. The dark humor that is sprinkled throughout, only a person who experienced this would be able to write from such a real perspective, rather than making everything dramatic. The thing is, in real life, no matter how bad the situation, there is still levity, there is still smiles and laughter, and Reiser captures that while also stirring the emotions through his screenplay. But don't go thinking 50/50 is a writer's showcase. The film sports a truly fine acting ensemble that brings Reiser's words to life.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives not his most controlled performance, but uses his everyman charm to make Adam a character worth rooting for. The biggest thing, is it is rare for me to see something with Seth Rogen in it and like it. He is perfect as Adam's friend, Kyle, who thinks the cure to cancer is using it to pick up chicks, but you really see how true a friend he is as he stands by Adam every step of the way. Anna Kendrick shines as Adam's young, 24-year-old therapist, who knows everything a book can teach but has no life experience, while Angelica Houston manages to steal the few scenes she is in as Adam's doting mother who is trying to deal with her son's cancer diagnosis whilst taking care of Adam's father with Altzheimer's (who Serge Houde makes the most out of simple reactions). And I know he's not an actor, I just wanna mention Michael Giacchino's magnificently refined score. Giacchino, known for big, verbose scores that sweep the viewer up in masterful uses of strings, keeps it simple here with soft electric guitar and piano, resulting in a soothing musical score that fits the piece perfectly.
Now, being fair, 50/50 was not without its faults. This is director Jonathan Levine's sophomore effort, and one can tell he is still young. There are times where his use of soft focus overpowered the performances of his actors, and he drew attention to his directing trying to create the emotion through the shot rather than through the actor's performances and the shot just being an aid. This is seen throughout the movie as he rarely sits on a close-up long enough to give the audience some time to read the actor's facial expressions and feel their performances. This is a weakness to the story, but one that does not keep Reiser's screenplay and the fabulous ensemble from pulling the viewer through, thanks to the sheer emotional landscape going from laugh-out-loud humor to tear duct-filled drama.
I give 50/50 an A-!