Seth Rogen isn’t known for his dramatic roles. Neither is he known for clean jokes or keeping on his pants. Finding him in a semi-serious film about dealing with cancer seems as out of place as a nail floating in the bottom of a bottle of Coke. The strangest part is, paired with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50, he shows that he can take that wacky personality and put it to good use, thus making one of the best movies of 2011.
The title of 50/50 refers to the main character Adam’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception) chances of survival from a rare cancer. Seth Rogen (Paul) plays his best friend who is helping Levitt stick it out. The lovely Anna Kendrick (Scott Pilgirm vs. the World) plays Levitt’s psychiatrist who is there to help him cope emotionally and Anjelica Huston (When in Rome) plays his fretting mother.
The film is one of those unique combinations that can take a serious subject like cancer, show it through the eyes of the afflicted and capture the essence of some of the ridiculousness that comes from the whole thing, all the while still taking into account the seriousness of the subject.
The humor is absolutely sublime. Poor Levitt has to deal with coworkers, friends, and family who have no idea what to do in the situation, or even what to say to comfort him that doesn’t come off sounding absolutely ridiculous. Levitt’s girlfriend ends up being thrown out at one point because she can’t handle someone sick. Kendrick is a complete doll with the whole thing, giving her fledgling acting career a serious boost in the right direction.
The best dichotomy in the film, as well as what makes it one of the best films of the year, comes between Rogen and Levitt. Rogen plays his usual boisterous inappropriate self, which is a perfect opposite to Levitt’s tidy little world. Despite their differences and Rogen constantly trying to use Levitt’s condition to have sex, there’s a palpable feeling that Rogen really cares for his sick friend and will do whatever it takes to keep a smile on his face till the end. It’s a special male relationship that’s rarely seen on film without connotations of homosexuality. It’s like Elwood and Joliet Jake from Blues Brothers, or what John Candy and Steve Martin eventually become in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s touching in an incredible way that anyone with a best friend will understand.
This is not a film to miss. It may be one of the most important films of the year, right next to The Help in quality and Contagion in relevance. This film is for cancer survivors, people who love those with cancer, people who have lost someone to cancer and anyone else with a heart and a sense of humor.
50/50 is rated R for language and nudity.