I sat at the screening for this movie next to friends of mine from Fox 40. At one point, I was nudged in the side by one of their elbows. I looked next to me and saw that I was being handed a tissue. I had no idea but I was crying so hard during 50/50 that I was sobbing, snorting and sniveling. Embarrassed, I took the tissue to wipe my face clean, although one minute later I was laughing my ass off and didn't need the tissue anymore.
50/50 is the work of director Jonathan Levine (HBO's How to Succeed in America) and writer Will Reiser (HBO's Da Ali G Show). It's a semi-biographical script based on Reiser's actual battle with spinal cancer and how his best friend, Seth Rogen, helped him through it. Seth Rogen stars alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Reiser's character and the two of them create one of the most emotional testaments to friendship that I've seen in over a decade.
This is not your typical Seth Rogen movie. Yes, there is pot smoking. Yes, there is crude language. Yes, they try to get laid. But what sets this apart is that there is also a soul to this movie that is deeper and more revealing than any comedy that's come out in years. That's not to say that if you're a fan of Knocked Up or Superbad you'll be bored by this. Rogen still delivers the top shelf funny that we've come to expect from him in every nuanced cadence of his style.
It's possible that I'm a little biased, since a friend of mine went through cancer when we were 19-years-old and some of the scenes in 50/50 hit a little too close to home. But as painful and gut-wrenching as some of the scenes can get, there are scenes that celebrate life and make you split your sides from laughing right around the corner. I can't remember a movie in recent memory that made me laugh just as hard as it made me cry. It's a true accomplishment of the Dramedy genre.
Reiser created a script that doesn't dwell in either one of the emotions long enough to bum you out or no longer realize how serious the subject matter is. It's a true masterpiece of writing. It's also helped along by a fantastic supporting cast that consists of Anna Kendrick (the Twilight Series, Up in the Air), Bryce Dallas Howard (the Twilight series, The Help), and Anjelica Huston (The Royal Tenebaums, Choke).
It's rare that a movie can make me cry thinking about it days after I've seen it; 50/50 is one of them though. That's not a spoiler, so don't worry. Although this film has some very heartbreaking moments, it's really a celebration of life. It's a film about cancer that doesn't spend its full 100 minutes making you feel like you're dying too. It's a rally cry for anyone who feels like cashing in their chips to instead stand up, go outside and embrace friendship, family and love.
It's also a film that SCREAMS for the Academy to take notice. I think 50/50 is good enough to be nominated for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. I encourage you to go see it, no matter if you've enjoyed a Seth Rogen film in the past or not, because 50/50 is therapeutic in its execution and cathartic in its viewing. I plan on seeing it again as soon as I can and this time I'll bring my own tissues.
50/50 (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A+