Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has it all... well almost. He has a girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) who dabbles in the art world. He has a respected position at Seattle Public Radio. He also has a very tightly-wound mother (Anjelica Huston) and a father with Alzheimer's Disease.
Adam, to his dismay, also has cancer.
His mind races, "How could I have cancer? I don't drink... I recycle." You never see Adam so much as keep a library book overdue, so the concept of having a rare cancer at the age of 27 is completely mind-blowing.
Fortunately, he has laid-back pal, Kyle (Seth Rogen) who reminds him that 50/50 odds is better than any casino game. However, Kyle is no angel, he also uses Adam's situation to occasionally get a number from a hot girl.
50/50 is a straight-shooting comedy. It may not benefit from its marketing, but everything in the film rings true. Nothing is manipulative, nor out of place. When someone is diagnosed with cancer the first thing to do isn't reserve tickets for the Alps and make radical life changes, you try to figure out how to keep the pieces together. At the end of the day you also find out who your real friends are.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt may not receive any awards this season for his performance as Adam, but that misses the point. There are few actors who can completely embody the anger, frustration and depression of facing your own mortality like this, but for those who can (like Levitt) those actors are worth their weight in gold. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a bright future as part of the next generation of leading men.
Seth Rogen, you either like him, or you don't and I do. Anna Kendrick may be treading some of the same waters from Up in the Air, but her performance as Adam's therapist is another gem. Some may say that Bryce Dallas Howard is a caricature of the "bitch girlfriend," but guess what? They are out there. It just goes to show that some people are not there for you in the long run.
Don't go into 50/50 expecting a morbid downer. This is an even mix of humor and heart-break, just like life. It just feels good. Finally, a realistic look at living with cancer. I don't know why it took a comedy to do it, but now we have it.
***1/2 out of ****