Ah media marketing… the ruiner of perceptions of films. I’ve harped on and on about how the way that certain trailers are edited together for mass appeal during the marketing of a film… KILL any chance that movie would have. This was the case with a certain film I watched recently… 50/50.
50/50 is about an uptight and somewhat awkward Adam, played by the always awesome Joseph Gordon Levitt. This guy coasts through life without anyone really paying much attention to him, including his own girlfriend. However, one fine day he’s faced with the news that he has cancer. The story is of how he comes to terms with this life altering situation, and the not so familiar stages that he goes through in the process.
The way 50/50 was marketed however, was by being touted as being from ‘the same guys who brought you SUPERBAD’. That right off the bat sets the completely contradictory tone, as 50/50 has in no way shape or form, ANY similarities with SUPERBAD. The Promos of the movie made it seem very slapstick and the routine Seth Rogen comedy. It was anything but.
In society, we’re taught to immediately feel pity and sympathy for someone who is terminally ill. 50/50 shows another side of the coin, where the patient themselves might have hope and be indifferent to their condition, however the negative and apologetic reaction of others make it more difficult to deal with. Adam’s frustration at constantly being told to ‘accept’ his condition further fuels his anger.
There are amazingly high moments of the subtlest form of humor in 50/50. But the entire film is a lighthearted look at some other ways of dealing with cancer. There are no dramatic, high strung teary moments; no philosophical lessons to be learned, no spiritual revelations, no bonds which get stronger due to the situation… it’s a hard look at the random-ness of life, and the frustration behind it.
The writing and performances of 50/50 are kind of stagnant and sporadic, despite all of them being great in their individual aspects. Seth Rogen does exactly what he does best, which is be the “f word” spouting friend who talks sense, in the most ridiculous way possible.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, as always amazing. He’s able to do the ‘awkward guy’ role a lot easier than the other stuff. Adam’s cancer further exasperates his socially inept persona, but eventually he goes through other emotions that help him deal. Anna Kendrick as the professionally inept, rookie grief counselor whose counseling actually make Adam feel worse… is awesome. Kendrick brings her natural sweetness and caution-ness to the role, causing great chemistry between herself and Gordon-Levitt.
However, all put together, seem out of place. Rogen trying to be there for a cancer stricken awkward friend… seems out of place. Gordon-Levitt, complete with shaved head from chemo trying to pick up girls at a club using his cancer as a pick up line… is off putting. I’m all for inappropriate humour, but this just wasn’t… anything
50/50 is not a great movie. I say this because, of its inconsistent tone. The parts that you think will be hilarious, end up being awkward, but not in a funny way. The serious moments drag. There’s not enough of the light heartedness. This inconsistency also prevents one from enjoying the film in its entirety. And like I said earlier, the expectations going into this movie, heavily corrupt the experience.
However, 50/50 is still a decent film, especially enjoyable to see Joseph Gordon Levitt & Seth Rogen together, in probably one of the best light hearted and easy going films dealing with Cancer. And to top it all off… it’s a true story. I leave you with, what I think is THE BEST Trailer for any movie based on a true story!
- Film: Interview: Joseph Gordon-Levitt reveling in Looper, hitRECord, and his directing debut, but not fame (avclub.com)