Thursday, October 13, 2011

50/50 (2011)

Often times in life its not the fears you plan for that throw up roadblocks, but rather the fears you never saw coming. The ones you hide behind under the belief that you're too young, live too healthy of a lifestyle, or too cautious and therefore they'll never happen to you. The very fears that allow you to get up in the morning and jog past busy streets, take those roller coaster rides, have that second hot dog, and breeze through the day while your conventional worries hog the rest of the time. Worries about your job, your living space, or your social environment.

Enter "cancer," the one word no human being on the planet wants to hear. Especially not when its directed in diagnostic format at them. But perhaps the greater question is once that word is out there, how do you react?

There's a lot to admire in the 2011 dramady that is 50/50. Its central figurehead is not a conventional cinema protagonist. The surrounding cast is each doused in their own collection of flaws and visible shortcomings as people, friends, and lovers. The approach taken to the very serious subject matter of cancer can be off putting to some, given the stark contrasting movements between levitating humor and emotional lashing out.

But at the core of it all is Adam, and I have to say he's quite a well crafted character, and one given the full treatment by Joseph Gordon Levitt. While it would have been easy to place Adam on the back-burner and use him as a medium to craft the characters around him, 50/50 Dives in head first in dealing with Adam's new found dilemma. We go on a journey through treatment, and the stages of acceptance as Adam not only overcomes some of his interpersonal problems, but also comes to embrace some of those peculiarities that make him who he is.

Behind the camera Jonathan Levine treads the thin line between style and substance. He intervenes only when he feels an added laugh or emotional tug can be gained through a bit of camera trickery, but for the most part holds himself at bay. His organization of shots and movement never left me wanting, never jerked me out of the film, or disassociated me with the characters. Will Reiser's steady pen boosts each character by laying on a level of complexity for each. Adam chews his nails, his therapist is unsure of herself and lacks seasoned confidence, his mother struggles with his father who has Alzheimer's and can't find a way to connect with her now sick son, his best friend tries his best to cheer Adam up but his plans are often misguided and seemingly selfish, and his girlfriend doesn't know how to be there when he needs her the most.

All of this plays out in a sea of well crafted drama and comedy, that floats below the line of greatness for me. Despite a few incredibly relatable and powerful dramatic moments, I still felt just on the cuff of that lasting emotional connection. As if there were a missing piece that would have turned a few passing sniffles and grins into a waterworks of tears and endless smiles. The added meh factor of Seth Rogan playing Seth Rogan squared did little to amplify my love for the characters. I don't dislike Rogan but his brand of comedy felt a bit out of touch with the emotional tone of the rest of the film. Sure Reiser and Levine do a find job of wrangling it in at the necessary moments of drama, but for the most part I wouldn't have minded him being put farther into the background.

Overall Score: 8.00/10

Film Credits:
Directed By - Jonathan Levine
Written By - Will Reiser

5 better thoughts:

Lesya Hearst said...

You rarely rate novies that high. Cool.

Brittani Burnham said...

Glad you liked it! I did too.

Duke said...

Nice to see you getting around to some newer releases...

Notes on the review:

Beyond being fantasitc and in-depth... I must disagree with the Rogen character. His archetype is always present, but unlike in... The Green Hornet, that sticky, gross-out comedic antics are useful here.

He provides levity in tense situations and lets Adam be the caring and kind person he is.

The characters, though not entirely nuanced, are worth watching beacuse they are, like you said, "relatable."

Then again, that's cancer for you - something that pretty much all of us have had to deal with in our lives at one in time.

Castor said...

Honest, poignant, funny, most definitely a solid and excellently crafted flick. I think the first half hour is that "missing piece" you talk about. It's a bit forgettable to start but it ends on a strong note to compensate.

Univarn said...

@Lesya Shhhh, you'll give away the trade secret

@Brittani good to know!

@Duke I understand, but there's a differencing between knowing what a character brings to the table and liking it :).

@Castor Perhaps but I think without that first half hour some of the best character moments later on in the film would have been lacking that initial set up.

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