Talk to Me
If someone tells you that you have a 50% chance of survival, I suppose it will show whether you're an optimist or a pessimist, since the end result has an equal chance to swing either way. You cannot control the circumstance, but you can surely temper your attitude towards it. Such is this film's brilliance in allowing one to journey with the protagonist through what would be anyone's most difficult situation when faced with a severe medical condition that one has no control over, except to face the facts that Fate has dealt. And for a film that's supposedly all seriousness, there's excellent drama and comedy all rolled into one.
Directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Will Reiser, whose life this film is loosely based upon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, a radio jockey whose routine medical checkup turned out to be a discovery that he has spinal cancer, and has to undergo chemotherapy in the meantime. It's a rare form of cancer, and like most of us these days the second opinion comes from the Internet, which is where the title came from in sufferers having a 50% chance of pulling it through. Revealing it to friends and family is tough, but as you would know will go to show just who your true friends are who would stand by you and provide morale support as you tackle it, in all honesty, alone.
What I thoroughly enjoyed about the film is its pacing, and its ability to cover plenty of themes from slice of life moments to the usual ones on family, friendship and romance even. It doesn't turn on heavy melodrama nor treat its material lightly as one would expect from its comedic moments seen in the trailers, but goes through it with plenty of dignity and decency despite the occasional tangent into crass jokes and vulgarities to lighten the mood once in a while, but ultimately drapes everything with sincere humanity that can be felt throughout the entire film, every step of the way.
As always, Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows just why he's one of the best actors of his generation, able to straddle both blockbuster films, with smaller ones that calls upon his acting chops to deliver memorable characters so real, his Adam is just like one of your best buddies, where you get to partake in his ups and downs in life, taking note of shared milestones together. You'll really feel for his character here through this trial and tribulation. Seth Rogen as Kyle, Adam's best friend and work colleague also aced his role despite playing what he does best in being the comedian of the duo, but essentially he's reprising what he had done for his friend Will Reiser, although with a lot more dramatic license adding to it. Both actors share this wonderful chemistry that made 50/50 such a delight to sit through especially since they light up the screen each time they appear together in the same scene, and when Kyle takes it upon himself to reap some booty benefits from his friend's condition.
Reiser's story doesn't have supporting characters who are one-dimensional, providing very rich stories and episodes in which they interact with the main leads, with so much room in character development you wonder at the efforts the filmmakers had to go through to solidly pack a punch in its pacing and narrative. Anna Kendrick whom was last seen as a rookie in Up in the Air opposite George Clooney, once again plays a relatively new therapist called Katherine, assigned to care for Adam. I suppose her fresh looks and girlie demeanour serves her well in acing such roles, while providing that subplot that finds no lack thereof in any romantic comedy. There's enough going on between Adam and Katherine without stating much of the obvious, and it worked marvellously. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Rachael, Adam's girlfriend, and in recent films I suppose she's deliberately branching off from goody-two-shoes roles to becoming more of the type of women anyone loves to hate, and pulling it off no less. And veteran Angelica Huston gets a small role as Adam's smothering mom, who in all earnestness, is probably like any other mom who's absolutely protective of her kids.
With an excellent, eclectic soundtrack to pepper the narrative, heartfelt performances even from Seth Rogen (whom you'd think is comfortable only in comedies) and a rich story with strong characterization delivered through what would be a strong ensemble cast, 50/50 gets my vote as being amongst one of the best films of the year. It's not flashy nor did it venture into sensationalism, but has this stoic confidence to tell it like it is, and rang through some really powerful and pure emotions without finding it necessary to employ cliches. Highly recommended!