As I sat in the theatre while waiting for the new film entitled “50/50” to start – I noticed one strange thing about the audience; everyone was elderly. At 20 years old I might have been the youngest person in the theatre. I was so surprised at why a bunch of old people would want to see a movie about death and cancer! My sister even joked that the retirement home must have let them have a field trip. What’s even more shocking is they all enjoyed it a little too much. They were the ones laughing the loudest and crying the hardest.
The film is about a straight laced (doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t swear) 27-year-old, Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that most patients die from. The funny thing about Adam is that he is afraid of death. He won’t even get his license because car accidents are one of the top five reasons for death (cancer beats it though). Adam is portrayed as very innocent and childlike – which makes you feel sympathetic for him throughout the entire film, especially when his illness gets worse.
The film follows Adam throughout his sickness and up until his final surgery, which could help or hurt him. It focuses mainly on how his relationships, both old and new, are affected because of his illness.
The most interesting, and even a little bit touching, relationship to watch is between Adam and his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen). The only complaint I have for Rogen is that he seems to play the same character in all of his films, which was present entirely throughout this film as well. Interestingly enough Rogen is supposedly playing himself in the film. Kyle is portrayed much like Rogen’s character in “Knocked Up” – a lazy, fat, sex hungry, and somewhat creepy immature young man. For much of the movie it seems that Kyle cares more about getting laid than his best friend dying. Despite Kyle’s lazy attitude and risky lifestyle he is always there for Adam, which is a lot more than can be said for Adams live-in girlfriend and primary care giver Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard). Rachel and Adams relationship becomes turbulent throughout Adams sickness, and will eventually lead to a nasty and hurtful break up (still funny to watch though). Their breakup is a turning point in the film because it shows just how close Kyle and Adam are. Moreover, Kyle shows the audience that he isn’t as bad as he seems, and that he really does care for Adam more than he cares about sex and partying.
We also see a new relationship blossom between Adam and his therapist, Katherine (Anna Kendrick). Part of Adam’s treatment involves seeing a therapist to deal with his sickness and the idea of his own death. His therapist, who is a 24-year-old working on her Ph.D. with only two other patients under her belt, becomes one of Adams closest confidants. At first, Adam was cautious with such a young therapist and called her out on her age and credibility within the first few minutes of meeting, but the audience will slowly start to see a trust form between them – and an unhealthy doctor to patient relationship evolving. Kendrick did a phenomenal job with her character – a book smart geek with a schoolgirl crush. I found myself on “Team Katherine” from the start – you fall in love with her character instantly.
We have Adams parents: a mother who is known for worrying too much and a father with Alzheimer’s who doesn’t even remember his own son. Adam is annoyed with his mother for much of the film and often ignores her and does not return her calls. However, after talking it over with Katherine he finally realizes how much he disregarded her – which is an attitude he carried for most of his life. In fact, my favorite part of the movie was when Adam was in therapy with Katherine complaining about his mother and Katherine shuts him up by asking, “So your mother has a husband who can’t talk to her and a son who won’t?” After that Adam learned to appreciate his mother and rekindle their relationship before his final surgery.
Adams father is a bit of comic relief throughout the film. He has no idea who he is – let alone that his son is dying, but always seems to be smiling/laughing figure in the background. However, the entire theatre erupted in tears when Adam said goodbye to his father before his surgery. This is probably the best scene in the entire film. The way his father reacted to the goodbye was heartbreaking and shocking.
By the end of the movie I knew why the theatre was packed with old people – cancer is never something that can be taken lightly – but this film, directed by Jonathon Levine, shed a little bit of much needed light on a very dark subject. It was the perfect, but extremely rare, mixture of comedy, drama, and romance. Moreover, with this cast, this movie has to be funny. My only complaint about the film (if you can call it a complaint) was I left the theatre not knowing what to feel. My sister and I walked in silence as we approached the car. We weren’t sure if we should laugh or cry – to talk about the funny parts or the sad parts (however we did talk about how Gordon-Levitt still looked pretty cute bald). This movie left me thinking long after the credits, which means it must be a good one.
Liz Thompson is a third-year student majoring communications with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at ET715984@wcupa.edu.