50/50 DVD Review

Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person?

Adam is a twenty seven year old radio program writer, happily drifting along in a stable but mundane relationship with his beautiful girlfriend Rachael and having a whole lot more fun with his less than stable best friend Kyle.

But Adam’s noticed this pain in his back for a while now and a routine check up reveals something he’s completely unprepared for.

Adam has a rare but very serious form of cancer.

His odds aren’t good, or perhaps they are depending on what way you look at it.

50/50 is the true life story of writer Will Reiser’s battle with cancer, though revealing this probably gives away a little too much.

Now cancer is a serious thing, obviously, and statistics claim this will affect one in every third person at some point in their life.

Pretty scary stuff.

So what we really need is some shining lights from our popular arts to make fun of this and distract us from this reality.

Which is exactly what 50/50 does, and it’s pretty successful in this too.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Reiser’s autobiographical protagonist Adam, and he’s the perfect choice to hold this film together.

Bizarrely enough for a film’s central character, Adam is ostensibly uninteresting. He comes across as someone who puts up with a lot in his life; from his mother, his girlfriend, his best friend and everyone else in his life.

By being strong for all the people in his life, Adam feels slightly blank and boring in comparison

Gordon-Levitt’s everyman shtick, even though he’s only an everyman by Hollywood’s standards, ensures in spite of this you never totally lose interest in his character’s plight.

So the laughs are largely provided by Levitt’s supporting cast. Seth Rogen performs his now staple funny side kick routine, Anjelica Huston excels as Adam’s overbearing yet put upon mother and Bryce Dallas Howard as the superficial yet superfluous girlfriend Rachael is superficial and superfluous.

But as 50/50’s story grows, so it becomes less of a comedy and more of a tearjerker.

Which means I cried, though pretended I hadn’t til I’d left the room.

After all, that’s what real men do.

Yet for all the frequently funny observations on cancer, and emotive journey we go on as we watch our strong silent hero’s slow decay, I can’t help but feel like 50/50’s glass is half empty rather than half full.

The film is good, but the idea is so inspired and original that you feel like it could and should have been great.

Maybe if they’d spent less time on the slightly generic supporting characters who provide stereotypical cinematic comedy and more time exploring Adam’s genuine emotions, even finding the humour in this, then it could have been even better.

That’s a minor quibble though, as 50/50’s glass is more full than most.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2012
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