Thursday, November 17, 2011

Movie with Abe: 50/50

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Released September 30, 2011

Sometimes the more serious topics in life are best handled with levity. Comedies can be laced with tragedy and end up being both funny and extremely moving. “50/50” is an appropriate title for director Jonathan Levine’s film, released six weeks ago but still playing in select theatres. Half the film is a comedy about two buddies, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Seth Rogen (Kyle), navigating the ups and downs of life, and the other half is the more sober story of Adam’s untimely cancer diagnosis. Strong writing and affecting performances help mold the two halves together into one charming and powerful dramatic comedy.

Casting Seth Rogen in a film usually means the opportunity for a decent level of ridiculousness and a hefty amount of swearing, sometimes in sweeter moderation (“Knocked Up”) and others in full-fledged offensiveness (“Observe and Report”). When he was relegated to a supporting role in “Funny People,” he wasn’t actually that funny, but in this case, he’s perfectly cast as Adam’s unserious best friend whose comments are almost entirely lewd and who supports his friend in a manner that can hardly be deemed conventional. Rogen does exactly what a supporting actor should do – make the most of the scenes in which he appears and not distract from the film’s subject, which is decidedly Adam.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has demonstrated enormous promise over the past few years, proving that he is more than just a teenage TV star from his time on “3rd Rock from the Sun.” His role in “50/50” can be described as a more sedated, nerdy version of his excitable romancer from “500 Days of Summer,” content just to get through life without ever getting too agitated about anything. Adam is given some memorable personality tics, most notably his refusal to drive because it represents one of the greatest risks of death. Gordon-Levitt is genuine and believable, and he handles the film’s dramatic moments exceptionally well. “50/50” is also a great vehicle for two talented young actresses, Bryce Dallas Howard, recently seen in “The Help,” as Adam’s girlfriend Rachael, and Anna Kendrick, from “Up in the Air,” as his therapist, Katherine, who is several years younger than Adam. The ensemble includes Angelica Huston and Philip Baker Hall as well, and these characters certainly feel like real people. Debut screenwriter Will Reiser’s script knows just when to be funny and when the mood should be more serious, creating a balanced and endearing story filled with humor and heart.


No comments: