Review in a Hurry: About 60 percent buddy comedy and 40 percent cancer drama, 50/50 stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a tumor-stricken radio producer who endures chemo-clinics and counseling sessions while battling the disease. An amusing, heartfelt, but unexceptional portrait of friendship and survival, 50/50 gets a mostly favorable diagnosis.
The Bigger Picture: Screenwriter Will Reiser taps into his personal battle with the dreaded C-word for this loosely autobiographical story. Proving that laughter is the best medicine, his 50/50 balances comedy with tears (and nausea).
Adam Lerner (affable Gordon-Levitt) is a mellow, sensitive dude—he works at Seattle NPR, after all—and enjoys a comfortable life with artist girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). But a trip to the doctor for back pain reveals he has a rare malignant tumor on his spinal column and, yes, a 50/50 chance of survival.
As Adam undergoes treatment, Rachael freaks from the sobering reality and even cheats on the poor guy. However, best bud Kyle (Seth Rogen) is there for support—in fact, he's always there, to the point of smothering—and even goads Adam into using his condition to lure chicks into sympathy sex.
It would have been refreshing to see Rogen play something other than a chortling, schlubby stoner helping his friend get laid. Similarly, Howard adds another hiss-able villainess to her résumé after her haughty turn in The Help.
Anna Kendrick also treads familiar territory as novice therapist Katherine, who counsels Adam during a series of increasingly flirtatious sessions. As in Up in the Air, Kendrick's character is uptight and awkward as she overcompensates for her lack of experience. Thankfully, awesome-but-underused Anjelica Huston appears as Adam's mom and gives the film some of its most poignant moments.
Despite the conventional casting and formulaic story beats, 50/50 still offers a healthy dose of good humor and mostly avoids the maudlin, though there's one too many montages of Adam wandering wet city streets to a pensive alt-rock score. Ah well—this is Seattle.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Those without strong stomachs might get queasy from scenes involving chemo, vomit and surgical scars. But they're relatively tame.