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50/50

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick

Rated R

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50/50 is ultimately a film about friendship through hardship. When Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that he has a malignant tumor, his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and new girlfriend Katie (Anna Kendrick) try their best to help Adam deal with his emotional and physical pain. Unfortunately, Kyle isn’t the most eloquent character, and only has his mind on gettin’ some. Screenwriter Will Reiser depicts this story brilliantly — a story based on his own experience with cancer and his friendship with Seth Rogen.

I have to admit I had a hard time imagining the expressive Joseph Gordon-Levitt tone down a performance to play an apathetic cancer patient. After watching his performances as the host on Saturday Night Live and lead in 500 Days of Summer, I was convinced that he could only portray the extremes of the spectrum of emotions. But I was pleasantly surprised by his and Kendrick’s authenticity in 50/50. The other actors in the film struggled to bring the same level of veracity that Gordon-Levitt and Kendrick did, but the movie nonetheless succeeded to convey its message.

50/50 owes much to its sharp dialogue. In his big screen debut as a writer, Reiser achieves an impressive feat, making the audience cry from both laughter and sorrow. From the marijuana-laced macaroons to the first sign of raw emotion from Levitt’s character — screaming in frustration — 50/50 makes you experience every emotion that a cancer patient could experience. The fact that Resier and Seth Rogen never wanted to make the movie too serious or too sad makes the film all the more genuine.

Surprisingly, Rogen does a mediocre job of essentially playing himself, although this could be due to the fact that he isn’t given many weighty lines or scenes. Other mediocrities include the chemistry between Rogen and Levitt and the performance of Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Adam’s despicable girlfriend at the beginning of the film. Not until the romance between Adam and Katie builds is there a believable relationship. Luckily, the witty dialogue carries the film until it reaches this point, keeping the audience interested throughout the whole movie.

This being my first movie review for The Tech, I went to the theatre expecting to take notes on the camera angles, music selection, and transitions. However, most of my notes were direct quotes from the film, like “no one wants to f*** me. I look like Voldemort,” and “that’s your Make-A-Wish?!” I must include, however, that the abrupt transitions between scenes enhanced the comedic effects of certain scenes and the dramatic effects of others.

The most important thing, however, is the message of how an apathetic individual learns how to live life to the fullest. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s haunting blank stare, which prevails throughout most of the movie, is broken down little by little as his character experiences elation, despair, and finally anger. This anger forces him to confront his emotions and his situation, and eventually, he is able to see the value in his life. Any other shortcomings become insignificant as we realize this powerful message.

My favorite thing about 50/50 was the ending. When the credits started rolling, I sat in complete infatuation with the ensuing scene (which I don’t want to spoil for those of you who haven’t seen it yet). Although I usually prefer endings that leave the ultimate message of the film up to interpretation, the directness of 50/50’s resolution was refreshing, and it left me amazed at Reiser’s screenplay, Gordon-Levitt’s performance, and how intensely I felt each emotion that Gordon-Levitt conveyed and Reiser experienced.