Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is your typical 27 year old guy. Actually a genuinely nice guy, down to earth and balanced, with no vices or bad habits that go beyond chewing his nails. Perhaps his only character flaw is that he blindly allows his girlfriend Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) to use him, but many other guys could say that over the years.
Adam is friendly and accommodating to everyone, loyal and devoted to his friends and seems just about ready to take the dreaded leap into (gulp)… genuine adult-hood.
Cancer doesn’t care. Unbeknownst to all, it silently enters Adam’s system, grabs hold of some of his more vital inners… and starts shaking things up.
After a couple of weeks of feeling under the weather Adam reluctantly consults a doctor who calmly tells him that Adam is no Arnie – this IS a tumor. As one of the patients in Adam’s small support group later tells him, the more syllables in the name of his type of cancer has, the worse it is… His has lots.
The doctor puts his odds at 50/50. Pretty sobering news for a 27 year old. His best bud and lifelong friend Kyle puts it in (skewed) perspective; “if you were a casino game you’d have the best odds!”. Kyle is not quite as balanced or mature as Adam.
The film doesn’t take short cuts or sugar coat the more unpalatable aspects of cancer, but it does show that amid even the most painful and depressing circumstances that a sense of humour helps.
Adam is subjected to tests and initial treatments to see if the cancer can be nullified without invasive surgery or chemotherapy. He decides to take the illness on head first and treat the disease like the imposter that it is. If you don’t take it seriously it can’t be that serious right…? Kyle even uses the disease to pick up chicks – actually more accurately Kyle uses normal people’s innate sense of sympathy to help him try to pick up chicks.
Unfortunately even the bravest and determined will have their patience tested over time, and cancer is a particularly patient and inexorable enemy. I defy anyone to not get emotional near the end of this film.
The cast is top notch from top to bottom, Anna Kendrick plays Dr Katherine McKay (really a trainee), who practically uses Adam as a test subject to practise her bedside manner and doctor/patient scripting on. Angelica Huston plays Adam’s mum, Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall other patients in his support group.
At the heart of the film is the relationship between Adam and Kyle. Some things don’t change. Longtime friends still treat each other with the same lack of respect and decency, whether one has a deadly disease or not.
Rogen shelves the goofy dialogue for the most part and happily takes a back seat as second banana, and Joseph Gordon Levitt quietly continues building a CV that is as diverse as it is compelling, with a nuanced performance that is both gritty and fragile.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. 50/50 is a hard film to ‘sell’, I mean young man battles cancer is hardly going to put bums on seats, but while the film is at times tough to watch it is nonetheless a film that deserves more attention.