50/50 (2011)

There's plenty of movies dealing with cancer, but the majority doesn't really know how to handle the subject properly and usually ends up being either the overly emotional type or the "living life to the fulled" type. It didn't seem like 50/50 was going to be one of those so I checked it out. 

Based on a true story, it follows Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old radio journalist in Seattle who lives with her girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard), of whom his best friend and co-worker, Kyle (Seth Rogen), disapprove. After experiences back pain for a while, he goes to the doctor only to be diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. At first, he handles all with ease as he starts counselling with Katie (Anna Kendrick), a young phycologist, but as he begins chemotherapy, everything gets more complex — her relationship with Rachel, his friendship with Kyle, and his overbearing, needy mother, (Anjelica Huston).

If there's anything that must be said about 50/50 is that, although the plot is entirely driven by cancer, it does not fixate on it, nor does it melodramatize what we already know about a terminal illness like most films do. It also handles the subject incredibly well with humour, without, however, making fun of the illness, and it successfully shows the reactions of someone, a young person specifically, who tries to cope with it. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to like it, I didn't find the story throughout compelling.

I’m giving the film a pass though as it’s not the plot that really counts but the fact that it works well as a character study of a young, play-it-safe man who after the initial shock handles his diagnosis with cynicism and reclusiveness, who’d rather send people away instead of having them closer and that decides to keep his many ups and downs internally. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives such a strong, likeable and sympathetic performance you cannot help but root from Adam.

As for the supporting characters, although they aren’t particularly characterized nor developed, they all are useful as they have a purpose in Adam’s development, and the actors handle them very well. Seth Rogen does well in the role of Kyle, someone who desperately wants to help his friend but doesn’t quite know how and hides his fears and emotions behind a form of support that revolves around him. Anjelica Huston finds herself playing the over-top role of Adam’s overbearing mother and she does wonders with it. Anna Kendrick is the right person to play the quirky therapist. Bryce Dallas Howard does fine as Adam’s cheating girlfriend. Also notable is Serge Houde as Adam’s Alzheimer’s suffering father.

Summit Entertainment

One great aspect of 50/50 is that director Jonathan Levine decided to put more emphasis on the character’s perspective, especially when it comes to showing what Adam is going through — the sequence where Adam goes to the hospital for his first chemo treatment is terrific.

Unfortunately, despite the compelling and relatable character — although I don’t have nor have had cancer, I would react the same way Adam does —, the solid acting and the good direction, I wasn’t able to fully enjoyed the film, especially the second part — while I found the first part very engaging and entertaining as the humour is handled very well, the second part felt dragged and was rather boring and uninteresting.


  1. Io invece l'avevo adorato. Visto ai tempi dell'uscita probabilmente rendeva di più. Negli ultimi anni tanti film (e serie) hanno trattato l'argomento in maniera simile, ma questa era uno dei primi.

    1. Verissimo, (purtroppo) ce ne sono sempre di più di questi film.