Early on in 50/50, we see our protagonist's (Joseph Gordon Levitt) pedestrian daily routine, comprised of morning runs and a carpool to work, a self-centered girlfriend whom Adam dotes on, and a stop at a coffee shop near the radio station where he works. Then, we see Adam focus on his passion: editing a radio piece about an active volcanic site that could potentially erupt at any moment.
Adam is a tedious and careful worker, and if this were a movie about following a goal or a passion, we wouldn’t hold it against him. However, if we know anything about 50/50 going in, we know it is a movie about cancer. There is no time for this tediousness, because 50/50 is not about pursuing a goal, it is what happens when a young person’s life is put on hold in response to a dangerous and potentially fatal disease. It’s almost painful to see him painstakingly putting a radio piece together when we know his own life is about to erupt.
With cancer on the docket, the whole story could play out pretty grimly. Perhaps even grimmer, considering two of the side characters are Adam’s uninvested live-in girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Adam’s overbearing mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston). But beyond the bleakness inherent to Adam’s diagnosis, 50/50 buzzes with so much vibrancy and vitality it would be hard not to find room for laughter.
This vibrancy has to do somewhat with Adam’s unconventional support system, found in best buddy Kyle (Seth Rogen) and therapist-in-training Katherine (Anna Kendrick). When Adam is diagnosed with schwannoma, a rare form of cancer that almost sounds like a Jewish breakfast food, his buddy Kyle laughs about the whole thing, offering the type of obnoxious upbeat forecasts only a total moron or a good friend could ever give. Which is why Adam also needs Katherine, to help him confront some of his feelings and face his fears with a potency only knowledge can give. The potential for romance following a breakup doesn’t hurt.
There will be reviews that tell you 50/50 is a raunchy buddy comedy and others that say it’s a maudlin narrative meant to uplift, but 50/50 is better than its pot jokes and Doogie Howser references, its hand-holding in hospitals and moments of breakdown. Director Jonathan Levine -- who also perfected the offbeat coming-of-age homage to hip-hop music, The Wackness -- spends a lot of time with homey, street-level cuts that not only make us feel as if we are real-life bystanders, but also make our leads seem less like characters and more like familiar people working their way through a difficult situation, and doing what they can.
Based on writer Will Reiser’s actual bout with cancer, 50/50 never pretends to be anything but what it is: a narrative about what getting cancer in your twenties can be like, and how one man deals with it. In all of its dramatic moments and all of its seconds of dudes acting like dudes, 50/50 never compromises what it is for a single moment. Just like the best of us.
First up are some deleted scenes, which come with commentary from director Jonathon Levine. When you first scroll over, the optional commentary is off, so if you would rather have it on, make certain to click "yes." Just like regular movie commentary, you can’t really hear a lot of what is going on during the scene with the commentary on. I personally prefer when there is an introduction before the deleted scene, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to watch the scenes twice. Commentary is available with the film, as well.
“The Story of 50/50” is a segment discussing how the film was inspired by Will Reiser’s experiences, but Reiser is quick to point out the inspiration is there, but his actual experiences are not. A good complement to “The Story” segment are the mini-featurettes that follow. Called “life imitates art,” Rogen, Reiser, and producer Evan Goldberg discuss how certain scenes were inspired or remind each of the guys of instances in their own lives.
Rounding out the special features is “Seek and Destroy,” a segment that follows Levitt and Rogan as they destroy the painting Levitt’s onscreen beau gives to him at the beginning of the movie. It’s the sort of scene that was probably more satisfying to live than to watch in replay.
The set is fairly bare bones, but there is some good information here if you are a fan of the film.
Reviewed By: Jessica Grabert
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