When you say the words, “50/50 chance of survival” out loud it doesn’t sound entirely hopeless. Then you start to think, “70/30 or even 60/40 would certainly put my mind a little more at ease.” Ultimately, can any set of numbers or odds help an individual come to terms with what they’re facing? That is the question that the latest Joesph Gordon Levitt film aims to answer.
50/50 is the story of Adam and the unpronounceable cancer that invades his body. Once diagnosed with cancer Adam begins looking for support from the people in his life only to find that some forms of help are better left unexplored.
50/50 skirts the line between maudlin and farcical, which is a very difficult balance to manage. If the story becomes too sentimental, then it simply becomes every schmaltzy film that ever covered the subject. If they opt to go for nothing but laughs, then it becomes too unbelievable and will lack any real truth, and will thus lose all credibility. Luckily, the film makes it work by allowing each humorous interaction to end with an emotionally truthful moment.
One of my biggest pet peeves in the filmic, or even literary world is the use of “false foreshadowing”. F.F. occurs when a very blatant statement or action is forced into a scene and serves to presage an event. Sometimes even events that viewers or readers are already expecting based on the premise of the story. 50/50 has this in spades, as one event or interaction informs another, and so on and so forth. This of course makes the film mildly predictable, but in the end, you are really only worried about one outcome, and that is implied in the title.
Levitt shows his comedic chops, though more often than not he is the straight man to Seth Rogen’s over the top buffoon of a best friend. And while Rogen continually brings the funny, Levitt manages to tug at the heart strings with his earnest performance. Beside the two male leads, other performances worth noting are Angelica Huston as Levitt’s onscreen mother and Philip Baker Hall as an ailing accomplice for Levitt.
50/50 is a heartfelt and subtle comedy, with some very strong and poignant performances. Despite the overuse of carelessly blatant foreshadowing, the film still manages to tells a story worth watching. Odds are, viewers with discerning taste will enjoy this film.