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IN SHORT: nnn. [Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use. 99 minutes]
While 50/50 is not a comedy based on a young man's battle with a usually fatal cancel of the spinal cord, it does utilize his best friend as a comic foil, in one sense to keep the victim from obsessing about the inevitable. In another sense in that, being the best supporting kind of friend is perceived (by the non-afflicted person) to be a sure fire method to show how sensitive and caring he is, and thus help him get into the pants of much finer women than he would ever get the chance to.
Thus, a comedy.
But 50/50 isnt a comedy. It is yet another "based on true events" story and it wisely avoids focussing on the strictly medical aspects of a battle that can be won only half the time. The screenwriters have put their nibs to the grindstone (sic) and created deep, caring characters and situations that had Cranky's sister, who came along to a preview screening, raving about what a terrific film 50/50 was.
You may assume that lead character Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) survives his battle with cancer. As far as the time frame seen in the film goes, you would be right. That won't spoil your enjoyment of the film, so we're not giving anything away. You want the guy to win even as he is surrounded by jerks and emotionally stymied family that want to help him and have no idea what to do.
Cranky's problem; why I nearly didn't write this review and why I'm relying on my sister's reaction -- hey, we always watch the reactions of regular people, even in screening rooms -- is that I have actually lived this story, once upon a time, with a woman who became ne of my closes friends as I began the career now known as "the Cranky Critic." She was a publicist for one of the major studios. As I was finishing my rehabilitation after my own medical crap, she was diagnosed with "spinal cancer" as she put it. The same situation faced by Gordon-Levitt's character. strangely enough, the prescriptions I was getting for spinal cord damage and the pills she was getting post chemo were pretty much the same. We bonded joking about side effects.
Within a year, she was dead. We worked in New York. She was buried up in New England, with friends and fiance and family in attendance. I was still too weak to travel to make the funeral. That was about a decade ago. Every attempt I've made to write about 50/50 comes out being a memorium to my long lost friend. I write about a lot of medical tragedies or medical miracles; there seems to be at least one every single year. Those that "Hollywood-ize" the medicine I shred. Those that get it right I complement, even if elements seem pulled from the "History of Cranky" pages on this site that briefly detail what three broken necks and four bouts of paralysis can do to ones mental and physical state.
It has been a week since seeing the film. It is a day before we have to post the review and it is five in the morning as we pen these words. We are very happy for screenwriter Will Reiser who survived his cancer to write this story. We miss our friend now more than we have in years. Life isn't fair and that's the be all and end all of this thing.
50/50 is a terrific film for those of you who haven't had to lose a friend to this particular form of cancer. Heck, we've lost other friends and family members to almost plebian forms like breast and brain cancer, that's how rare cancer of the spinal cord is.
But as I wrote, this film isn't about the cancer. It's about the people. It's about Kyle (Seth Rogen) the jerkwad of a friend who is less jerk than he appears. It's about the love of Adam's life, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) who promises to stand by her man through thick and thin. It is about a mother (Anjelica Huston) who can't do anything but smother because that's all that occurs to her. It is a terrifically written film that should be seen, and one which will make our Best of the Year list, even though we will never ever look at it again.
You see it. You should be touched and moved and you'll have an occasional giggle and all that good stuff.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 50/50, he would have paid . . .
I'm going to go drown myself in self-indulgent Oscar wannabe crap. That I can deal with.
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