Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Adam, a man in his later twenties who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer with a 50% survival rate. 50/50 follows Adam as he undergoes treatment and struggles to maintain relationships with his best friend (Seth Rogan), girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his mother (Anjelica Huston) and his therapist (Anna Kendrick).
Will Reiser had a tricky task in writing a cancer comedy, the drama and comedy have to be carefully balanced to avoid either trivialising the disease or smothering the humour. Luckily Reiser trod this line well and has written a film that had me both laughing out loud and fighting back the tears.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is responsible for the majority of the drama, forced to carry the weight of the film as he portrays a man facing potential death and struggling through debilitating treatment while not believing he is receiving the necessary support from his loved ones. Adam is not completely devoid of comedy but is certainly where the drama is centred.
To keep the film from edging into too bleak a territory, Seth Rogan, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston use their supporting roles to bring in the laughs, while each sharing a touching moment with Adam along the way; with a two-handed genre no cast member is left as just the comic relief. This is a great cast with solid material to perform so there is nowhere for the film to go wrong.
Some may find the shifts in tone a little hard to swallow but for me director Jonathan Levine has done a good job at seamlessly blending the genres. Levine gets bonus points for a few visual flares courtesy of two clever uses of shifting focus, which is just what you’re looking for in a comedy, I’m sure.
In short, a moving and hilarious film about living with cancer. Who knew a Seth Rogan project would almost make me cry?
50/50 is on general release on 25th November 2011.