If you had to describe “50/50” to someone in few words, you’d probably say it’s a comedy about a guy who gets cancer. But most people who have been affected or have had loved ones affected by cancer will tell you it’s nothing to joke about. So it’s understandable that they may be initially put off by the idea of making fun of something that has caused so much tragedy in their lives.
What’s so good about “50/50” is that it is well aware of how horrible cancer is, not only to the person who was diagnosed, but also to the people around them. The jokes are sensitive and everything funny in it feels real. For some people, like the characters in this movie, laughing is the best way to deal with the troubles in their lives.
Seth Rogen supplies much of the comedy in the film. He plays the best friend of Adam Lerner, who at the age of 27 is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Throughout the film, he tries his hardest to get Lerner to use his cancer for something positive, namely, to get laid.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Lerner as a regular nice guy. It’s easy to feel bad for him. If a traditional drama without the comedy were made about this subject, you would be able to expect it to be a big cry fest filled with sentimental moments in which you should feel bad for Lerner and his close friends and family. “50/50” definitely has emotional moments that will make you cry, but it also subverts some typically sentimental moments with un-forced laughs. They lift the film to genuine heights that will simultaneously have you crying and laughing.
Paradoxically, the fact that it’s a comedy doesn’t make the movie less emotional, but actually makes it more emotional. Because these people try their best to make each feel better during a horrible situation, we like them much more. As a result, the increase in likability leads to more sympathy and emotion for them. By the time the big moment comes in the last act of the movie, well, you’re ready to bawl your eyes out.
Director Jonathan Levine’s previous film was the hip-hop filled coming-of-age story “The Wackness.” Aside from the fact that both of these movies are wonderful, “The Wackness” and “50/50” also have a similar audience. Young people in their mid-20’s to early 30’s will most likely empathize with and be moved by the characters more than others. Because Lerner is only 27 when he gets cancer and lives in modern day Seattle, younger people will be affected more. It’s not everyday that you see people just like you having to face such important and serious questions about their lives.
“50/50” puts you in someone else’s shoes and gets you to experience a life that most of us hopefully do not have to go through. It probably won’t be the life-changing movie that it tries to be, but it will get you to remember that sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at where you’re heading.