The line between drama and comedy can sometimes be blurry. The film that decides to mix the two is often called a ‘dramedy.’ Achieving a good balance between the two is a great way to reap the intended storytelling benefits of both genre. If you lean too far in one direction, though, the balance is thrown off. ’50/50′ aims to reconcile these two different approaches.
Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man who works at a radio station. He has an artist girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a best friend/co-worker named Kyle (Seth Rogen).
After seeing a doctor for some discomfort in his back, Adam discovers that he has a rare form of spinal cancer. According to WebMD, his odds of survival are 50/50. This sends his world into a tailspin. His smothering mother (played by Anjelica Huston) wants to move in and take care of him even though she is already caring for her husband who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Adam refuses to let his parents move in with him and assures them that Rachel will take care of him, which she does with some trepidation.
As part of his treatment, Adam sees a very young therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) who clearly is having trouble helping him. Eventually, he warms up to the idea of talking about his problems and they get closer.
Will Adam be able to accept the realities of his condition? Will he open his eyes to the fact that he should cut some people out of his life and more willingly embrace a few others? Is he going to respond positively to treatment?
Don’t expect this to be a straightforward comedy. Very few movies that feature a character who is battling cancer can avoid a bit of drama. It would probably be irresponsible to even attempt to do so. There are downright sad moments here and explorations of friendship, love and the parent/child relationship. Illness has a way of affecting any and all of these categories.
Most of the obviously funny moments are centered happen when Kyle is on screen. It’s easy to assume that Rogen would only be the comic relief, smoking pot, looking for women and swearing at a record pace, all for our amusement. You would actually be spot-on with that, but he is also the most consistent source of friendship for Adam in his time of need. Maybe at times it seems like Kyle is taking advantage of his friend’s disease for his own sexual ambitions, but he does expose Adam’s girlfriend for being the cheater that she is. He also, in his own way, helps his friend to move on.
What we can learn from characters like Kyle and Adam’s mother is that while they certainly aren’t perfect, they genuinely care about our protagonist. There are things that they can and should change when they deal with him, but Adam has to realize how difficult things are for others and how his cancer affects those around him. The relationships are complicated and multi-dimensional.
Probably the most powerful scenes are the ones that he shares with two older men who are also receiving chemotherapy. They have a sunny outlook compared to their young friend and help to give him perspective. Along with a few somber moments, they also offer up some laughs with the camaraderie they develop.
Special features include: deleted scenes and commentary.
Be very aware that ’50/50′ is an extremely emotional dramedy, even if you find it categorized in the comedy section. You might get a little misty-eyed, more so than you expected.
Though the material tackles a heavy subject, it is a brave story to tell. Most importantly, it is told exceptionally well.
Rated R 100 minutes 2012
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When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!