Sunday, October 16, 2011
50/50...Or Self-Aware Hipster Cancer Odyssey
Actually, I shouldn't mock by calling 50/50 a "Self-Aware Hipster Cancer Odyssey" - it's actually a (bit surprisingly) well constructed, heartfelt yet lighthearted dramedy (or comma) about dealing with a cancer diagnosis. It's also not exactly what you're expecting, as the trailers aren't really able to effectively explain what's going on.
The plot is pretty straightforward - Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and the plot centres around his subsequent fight and the people around him that help him through it.
Those people include his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who actually isn't just the chubby, stoner doofus. His part also doesn't involve fawning all over Adam at every moment, but rather being the friend that's there when he's needed. He's actually not in the film a lot, which speaks to Gordon-Levitt's growing acting prowess as he needs to keep the film going much on his own.
Adam's mother (Anjelica Huston) struggles to cope with Adam's diagnosis, and initially comes off as little more than an (incredibly) overbearing mother, but soon evolves - despite limited screen time - into someone that just wants to help and feel a connection to her quickly dwindling family (in addition to Adam's cancer, her husband suffers from Alzheimer's).
Adam starts the movie living with his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), the only really loathsome character in the film. Although Adam is starting to see the signs that his relationship needs to end, Kyle catches Rachael kissing someone else at a gallery opening, exposing her infidelity to Adam right in front of her.
It's the scenes involving Rachael that prove to be the most surprising of the film. Not only does Adam kick her out immediately upon finding out about the gallery opening, in a subsequent scene, when she returns to pick up her stuff and attempts a reconciliation - where a weaker film might turn this into a conflict plot point - he again kicks the little alien to the curb.
The last major character in the film is Katherine, played by the lovely Anna Kendrick - a person who, in my mind, can do no wrong, as opposed to Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I will detest cinematically until the end of time. She starts as a doctorate candidate therapist, helping Adam - somewhat unsuccessfully - to cope with the stress and emotions of his cancer treatment. She eventually progresses to...we don't know what.
And that's the key to the movie. It ends just as Adam and Katherine begin their first date, as they awkwardly wonder what their next step is. It doesn't force conflict or resolve it just for the sake of it. Everyone accepts the roles they need to play in Adam's recovery, and everyone plays it very well (including Bryce Dallas Howard in her role as Hipster Wench).
I'd been passively trying to avoid this movie, because I really didn't care to see it, nor did I think it would be particularly good, but it turned out to be something I was very glad I saw.