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50/50 movie review

Near the end of 50/50, one of characters asks, “What now?” And that pretty well sums up the theme of this amazing little gem of a cancer film that is a “must see.” Maybe you’re trying to decide whether or not to get in our out of that relationship or job or city or apartment, but you do assume that something will follow. Compare the experience of 27 hear old Adam, played skillfully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has to contemplate a world where there might be nothing coming after “what now.” Really an inconceivable state of affairs to most people, certainly to a twenty-something.

Adam walks into the doctor’s office with a backache and walks out with a grim unpronounceable cancer diagnosis; he researches it on the Internet and finds out his chances are 50/50. But hold on, this film is not depressing. With a brilliant screenplay written by Will Reiser, who had his own successful battle with a similar cancer in his twenties, and co-starring Seth Rogen, hilarious as Adam’s best friend, and coincidentally, Will’s best friend in real life, the two main guy characters create the most real, most entertaining 99 minutes slice of life about cancer you will see.

Seth’s approach is a blend of backslapping friendship and a steady diet of chatter and crude jokes that would entertain even the most distressed cancer patient. (His list of supposed celebs who beat cancer includes Patrick Swazye) Director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) takes this memoir and smoothly rolls it out without a hitch. The dialogue is spot on and will have you rolling in the aisle. And you’ll love Anna Kendrick (remember her great performance in Up in the Air with George Clooney) as Katie, Adam’s therapist. She’s so young (even younger than he is) that he asks her if he is her first, second or, possibly at best, third patient ever. Other supporting roles that round out this film include Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s departing girl-friend; she simply can’t “do” cancer, as many friends and family in real life find they can’t either.

Overall, the film succeeds because it never succumbs to sappy sentiment; often funny, even more often angry, very true to life and well worth seeing. And what really makes it work is the undying (no pun intended) friendship between Adam and Seth, a bro movie through and through. Bring the popcorn and enjoy!

Deborah King