50/50 is a new comedy drama (though probably more drama comedy) starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young man faced with a rare and aggressive form of spinal cancer; the film never puts a foot wrong and makes some honest perceptions on how people deal with the C word in different ways rightly or wrongly and of course a dick joke is never too far away if Seth Rogan has anything to do with it.
A film that could be deemed a 'cancer comedy' sounds like an example of walking a dangerous line or a foolish attempt at trying to make an untouchable subject humorous. The writer of 50/50 Will Reiser actually suffered as Adam does in the film, this is his story and he seems to have learned a great deal from his experience and has now been given the chance to share it. So despite some crude comic relief stemming almost entirely from Adam's best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) the film is honest and touching for the most part never making a mockery of a life threatening illness and shedding some light on some unfortunate truths of human behaviour.
Seth Rogan does a great job at playing the persona we've come to expect from him, his Kyle seems at first selfish and immature when facing his friend's illness by seeing it as a chance to get a sympathy shag but as the film goes on we and Adam learns that he really is dealing with the reality of the situation and perhaps helping Adam more than anyone else. Adam wants everyone to stop pretending he's not dying and that all is ok, its Kyle that does this best despite coming across like someone only thinking with their reproductive organs most of the time.
Angelica Huston is a pleasure to watch as always as Adam's obsessive smothering mother, Bryce Dallas Howard gives a great example of the girlfriend who isn't emotionally capable of dealing with the reality that Kyle (seemingly the most immature in this feature) is. Anna Kendrick conveniently plays Adam's trainee therapist who forms a bond with him and opens his eyes to some aspects of his life that he's blind to, Miss Kendrick seems to play the sparky sweet young professional well as she did in Up In The Air back in 2009 too.
This really is Levitt's film as he again proves to be a strong central performer able to keep a film above water with his talent. His character shows great maturity and never goes too far into a mopey indie attitude which was quite nice not to endure for once. 50/50 may not break the mold as far as character and story goes but attempting to take on the big C is no small feat and refreshing to see in cinemas from a writer who is clearly the man for the job.
Some viewers might find the moments of crude humour unbearable but the film really is looking at a young demographic and doesn't pretend to be more than it is. When the narrative is at its most sensitive the drama works beautifully and those who can't get their heads round some of the few moments of immaturity should probably wait for the next Michael Haneke film as he too takes on chronic illness.
Note: The Cs mentioned in this review's title are Comedy, Cancer, and the other unmentionable C that Seth Rogan's character drops midway through the film.