Mixing cancer and comedy doesn't seem like it should go so well, but 50/50 is a film that makes it work. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, a 27 year old easy going guy who unexpectedly gets diagnosed with cancer. The film details his struggle to beat the disease and all the hardships that come along with having to fight a disease as crippling as cancer at such a young age. Adam is surrounded by various other people in his life that all influence him in different ways. Seth Rogen plays his best friend, Kyle, who always tries to help Adam out, but doesn't always know how to go about it. Anna Kendrick plays Adam's therapist, Katherine, whose attempts to help Adam cope with the cancer work at times, but at other times she just can't find the right way to connect with the grieving youngster. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Adam's girlfriend and Anjelica Houston is one of the strongest characters, Adam's overprotective mother. The film is a compassionate tale of love and friendship while simultaneously being a raunchy pothead comedy. The overlap is strange, but it works incredibly well.
There are so many ways to do a comedy film about cancer wrong, but very few ways to do it right. 50/50 thankfully manages to find the sweetspot of this risky terrain and succeeds in being a charmingly touching film as well as a wildly hilarious one. The writer of the film, Will Reiser, based the film on his own experiences with fighting and beating cancer at a young age, and his passion and understanding of this story shine beautifully through the film and its characters which surely all resemble Reiser's own friends and family in some way. 50/50 doesn't lean too far to either side of the comedy versus drama spectrum and it always maintains a consistent level of heartwarming hilarity balanced with touching sincerity. The drama and comedy weave in and out of each other perfectly and seamlessly with neither genre feeling inappropriate or out of place. It is sincere filmmaking at its finest.
Moreover, 50/50 just does a great job with its balance of genres, but also with the overall story and the great characters within that story. We grow such passionate empathy for Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a way I never thought could be possible. The film draws us into his troubled world so well and we are rooting for him all the way, cheering on his every move and growing more and more attached to him with every passing moment. We also grow to love the supporting cast who, with the exception of one particular character but I won't spoil anything, support Adam through all his hard times. The characters are all so well written and they play their key roles in Adam's life perfectly. 50/50 is a movie structured to where every character serves a major purpose in furthering Adam's development as well as the development of the plot. And so as we watch the relationships between Adam and the people in his life grow and fade we develop a deeper understanding of his character, making 50/50 an incredibly human story.
It's always nice to be so surprised by a film's quality. I expected good things from 50/50 from the first time I saw a trailer, but the movie itself exceeded my expectations. It is what the dramady subgenre is all about. It is a film tailor made to be the subgenre's posterchild. I laughed, I lamented, and I was brought close to tears at how heartwarming and touching of a film 50/50 is.