In my defence – “Hi, I’m Anaplastic Large T-Cell Lymphoma”. Not that we’re having a competition, but my odds were 40%. So, when it comes to reviewing a film like 50/50, I think I’m quite well placed.
I needed to be alone to see this film. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to see something billed as a comedy about cancer. I was expecting to find it difficult to watch. It was – but it was also brilliant.
The film is partly based on the experiences of screen writer Will Reiser, who found himself in a similar position to the main character Adam, with a malignant tumour on his spine. You can tell it’s been written by someone who has experienced cancer. The key moments in Adam’s ‘journey’ are stunningly accurate. I had to remind myself to breathe.
From the initial disbelief, “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – I recycle. Cancer doesn’t happen to people like me”, to the blur of the diagnosis and Googling to find out what it actually meant.
From starting treatment and thinking “that’s not as bad as I thought” to the nausea that kicks in a few hours later. Onwards to the final consultation after all avenues have been exhausted. It could go one way or the other – you just don’t know which. The tension in that final clinical scene is gut-wrenching.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays 27 year old Adam is so convincing in the principal role. He literally diminishes as his treatment progresses. Bald and barely surviving, when words fail his beautiful brown eyes express the whole gamut of emotions experienced by a flailing cancer patient.
The thing about cancer is that it doesn’t just affect you. Like dropping a pebble into a pond and watching the ripples, it affects all those around who struggle to know what to do. Anjelica Huston is wonderful as Adam’s smothering mother and his relationship with therapist Katie, played by ‘Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick is exquisite.
Cancer is a pretty heavy subject. Light relief comes in the form of Adam’s best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who endeavours to milk ‘the cancer card’ as a route to pulling women. I believed and loved everything about this film – apart from Kyle who for 80% of the film really annoyed me. Until the last ten minutes, where you realise that he too is struggling to understand and cope. Once I saw that, I forgave him.
I wouldn’t say that 50/50 was a comedy about cancer. I’d say it reflects real life. Humour can be found in even the direst of situations. Adam’s not particularly brave or inspirational, he’s just doing his best to get through the ‘shit hitting the fan’.
Every fibre was telling me to avoid seeing this film. But I’m so glad I did because it was stunning.
And ps. so far, I’m one of the lucky 40% (touch wood)