The phrase ‘cancer comedy’ sounds distasteful, but writer Will Reisner has managed to turn his own personal cancer story into a bromantic comedy-drama with character-driven wit and charm.
My apprehensions were met as 50/50 features Seth Rogen on typical crude, mildly offensive, weed-smoking form. This may all sound too familiar, yes, but in a crucially different context. This film allows us to see Rogen in a different light, with late scenes in the film hinting at a more sensitive side.
50/50 rightly attempts to explore the effects of cancer diagnosis on friends and family. It also highlights new bonds and friendships that Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) strikes up, owing to his new-found predicament. There are elements of a boys’ club-type feel to the scenes shared with two older cancer patients, played beautifully by Phillip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer. As with Rogen, their banter provides light relief from the heavy subject matter, while the tragic truth is still apparent as they sit hooked up to monitors receiving their chemo treatments.
The soundtrack of this film is superb; as with the majority of indie-esque films, it plays an important role. A prominent track featured would be quite rightly ‘Carries On’ by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, and the inspired choice of Pearl Jam’s ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ bringing in the end credits.
While 50/50 is essentially a comedy, it skims over the more gruelling aspects of the disease but doesn’t rose-tint them. The film does a remarkable job of balancing the odds. It is detailed enough, rendering it believable and moving, while remaining the right side of funny.
50/50 (2011), directed by Jonathan Levine, is distributed by Lionsgate, Certificate 15.