50/50 has a fighting chance

By Jessica Cabe

Creating a well-done “dramedy” is not as easy as it seems.

But 50/50 finds the perfect balance between humor and tragedy by maintaining an element of reality and relatability throughout the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Inception) plays Adam, a 27-year-old radio station employee who discovers he has a rare form of cancer which leaves him with a 50 percent chance of survival. Adam’s best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) provides most of the comic relief through an otherwise heavily emotional film.

Other stand-outs in the cast include: Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Rachael, Adam’s girlfriend who struggles to stay supportive through the stages of the disease; Anna Kendrick, who plays Katherine, Adam’s inexperienced and quirky counselor; and Anjelica Huston, who plays Diane, Adam’s overprotective mother.

The film begins with Adam complaining of back problems. When he goes to the doctor, he is told that he has a malignant tumor on his spine.  He begins chemotherapy, and the viewer is shown all of the dark and devastating side-effects of his treatment.

At first, Rachael tries her best to stay supportive during such a trying time. But gradually the audience understands that she does not have the level of compassion and love necessary to stand by Adam.

With Adam a single man, Kyle insists he use his cancer as a way to pick up girls. This results in multiple laugh-out-loud scenes, and the audience finally sees a slightly more laid-back, improvisational acting style from an otherwise rigid Gordon-Levitt.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film’s plot is the relationship between Adam and Katherine, a student in the pursuit of a Ph.D. in psychology who has only worked with two patients prior to Adam. The audience gets to watch Katherine develop as a therapist as Adam grows and recognizes his tumultuous feelings — including his attraction to Katherine.

But the most touching relationship in the film is actually between Adam and Kyle. Because of Rogen’s crude sense of humor, the moments of somber reminiscence or brotherly support are even more moving. Kyle is the only person there for Adam’s emotional breakdown, which also happens to be the first real tear-jerking moment of the movie.

Although the script and acting were superb across the board, the post-production elements of 50/50 got a bit hokey. The filmmakers included one too many trendy music montages, giving the impression that the movie was made by a bunch of college kids who wanted to advertise for their favorite bands. However, “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam did fit perfectly in the closing scene.    

Overall, 50/50 is the quintessential example of a funny but realistic film. This balance is pulled off by effortless acting and a superb script.