Friday, February 3, 2012

50/50

For a movie about a person stricken with cancer, 50/50 goes down pretty easy. That it is so pleasant to watch makes it a distinctive entry in the cancer movie lexicon, if also a problematic one. Based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own experience with cancer, 50/50 fearlessly takes on a difficult subject—a young person facing death—and treats it with even amounts of reverence and humor. On hand for the laughs is Seth Rogen, who once again serves up his foul-mouthed but cuddly schtick. There are a handful of knockout moments, most stemming from the subdued sensitivity with which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the central character. If only the storytelling were approached with the same grace and knowingness as its thematic core. The narrative is too clean. Gordon-Levitt’s strong performance, for example, helps conceal the fact that his character is too good to be true. It’s as if the filmmakers are screaming from the rooftops, “Look at how promising this kid’s future was before he had cancer!” In the same vein, the closure given to nearly every relationship and plot thread diminishes the film’s impact and nearly compromises its nimble sensibilities. These problems may account for how 50/50 pulls off such a delicate balance and yet fails to resonate as strongly as it should. (Jonathan Levine, 2011) **½

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