Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Movie Review: 50/50

Jen and I watched 50/50 last week and rather enjoyed it.

It's got a lot going for it. Angelica Huston adds a touch of class to any production that includes her (I didn't watch Ever After for Drew Barrymore, that's for sure), I've loved Seth Rogan since his Freaks & Geeks days, it stars my hetero-crush Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick, who has been amazing in everything in which I've seen her and is the second prettiest person in the movie.

And shit, I already MADE that "second prettiest" joke in my Ten Things I Hate About You review.

Anyway, moving on.

It's a story of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a healthy twenty-something who learns he has cancer, which is not, one would imagine, the most fertile ground for a comedy. But of course it works because of, and not in spite of the subject matter.

It reminds me of Stranger in a Strange land: "I had thought — I had been told — that a 'funny' thing is a thing of a goodness. It isn't. Not ever is it funny to the person it happens to...The goodness is in the laughing itself. is a bravery . . . and a sharing… against pain and sorrow and defeat."

Gordon-Levitt's Adam is largely the straight man to Rogen's Kyle, though he gets in a few good lines on his own, (On learning he has cancer: "That doesn't make any sense though. I mean... I don't smoke, I don't drink... I recycle...) and on picking up girls:

Kyle: You could have totally fucked the shit out of that girl.
Adam: No one wants to fuck me. I look like Voldemort.

And speaking of people who look like Voldemort, Matt Frewer was in the movie.

When he came on the screen, I was like "Hey, look, it's Max Headroom! Ha ha ha! Oh...wait. It really is. Suddenly, my observation seems less funny."

I also like Bryce Dallas Howard as Rachel, Adam's girlfriend. I had only seen her in Spider-Man 3, and nobody came out of that looking good,

but she gives a great portrayal of a sympathetic...villain. And villain isn't exactly the right word, as the cancer is the villain of the story, but that's the only one that seems to fit.

I like the scene where Kyle, Seth Rogen's character, outs her to Adam about her infidelity.

Kyle: I was in the neighborhood - I was just on a date with Claire, the girl I met at the bookstore? My date did not go well, unfortunately, due to a lack of chemistry... and, I think, an overuse of profanity on my part. But, whilst on my date... I ran into Rachael.
Adam: Oh, yeah?
Kyle: And I would like to present to you what I am going to call Exhibit...[Shows Adam a picture of Rachael kissing another man] WHORE! Look at it! That's Rachael! And that's a fuckin' filthy, Jesus-looking motherfucker, and they're kissing! I did it! I fuckin' nailed you! I've hated you for months, and now I have fuckin' evidence that you suck as a person! Holy shit! Holy shit!

Some of the best moments in the film come from her performance. I like it when she comes by after the breakup to pick up her stuff and Adam, who had been relaxing on the couch with Kyle, instinctively reaches for his cap. Almost immediately afterward, she's so sincerely hurt that he would take her painting down.

She was out of love with him and cheating on him and ready to break up prior to the diagnosis, so she chose the lesser evil and stayed with him, because she still loved him enough to do that. But it was hard on her, as it is for everyone who has a loved one with a serious illness, and that's something that it would be easy for the movie to ignore. She's a selfish person and a weak person, but not a bad one. It's very easy to believe that she never wanted to hurt him.

Angelica Huston is of course, awesome, as if her treatment of Drew Barrymore in Ever After could ever leave one in doubt of that. She's taking care of Adam's father, who suffers from Alzheimer's, and she's the flip side of Rachel, the one who sticks with it even when it's the hardest thing she's ever done and her husband is incapable of appreciating all that she does do for him.

And the third woman in the cast is Anna Kendrick as Adam's therapist, Katherine. I love all of her mannerisms, and the details, like a screensaver on her laptop that reads Katherine's computer. She's believably awkward and genuinely likable. (And ludicrously unprofessional for falling in love with her third patient, but forget that.)

I do like that she calls Adam out for avoiding his mom when she could really use his support, though.

I'll spoil the ending.  Adam goes in for surgery because the chemotherapy was unsuccessful...

...and survives. Obviously. You don't kill off your main characters in a comedy unless you're making Harold and Maude.

I like it. It's a fun movie, and it could have veered into either saccharine sweetness or oppressive grimdarkness easily, but it strikes a solid balance, never being dismissive of the subject matter, but not letting it overwhelm the comedy either. 

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