Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance


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January 08, 2012 at 12:12 AM


Anna Kendrick as Katherine
Seth Rogen as Kyle
700.69 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 40 min
P/S 11 / 189

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by David Ferguson ([email protected]) 7 / 10

Tears, Laughs, Life Lessons

Greetings again from the darkness. The great Richard Pryor had a portion of his act dedicated to having a heart attack, based on his real life experience. I guess if he can generate laughter from a coronary, there is no reason writer Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) can't view Cancer as Comedy. There is little doubt that the subject matter of this film will limit its audience, but for those brave souls who give it a shot, I believe you will find it funny, touching and insightful.

The film introduces us to Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is a very nice, very normal, very low-key guy who works at a radio station as a writer ... a very conscientious radio writer. Adam experiences a nagging pain in his back, which is unusual for a healthy 27 year old. After a few tests, the emotionless doctor informs him that he has a rare spinal cancer ... also very unusual for a healthy 27 year old. From this point forward, the film borders on brilliance at times.

Adam's girlfriend is played by Bryce Dallas Howard; his mother by Angelica Huston; and his best friend by Seth Rogen. Each reacts in different ways to Adam's diagnosis, but what's really interesting is not just how these people react, but also how Adam reacts. He moves forward in his meticulous manner, but all the while we know the emotions are brewing. We see this in his sessions with his therapist-in-training played by Anna Kendrick.

Seth Rogen's character is basically a carbon copy of his act in 40 Year Old Virgin. He spews profane one-liners faster than our ears can process. Despite the aggressive front, Rogen's character is a friend with a heart ... and one who doesn't hesitate to share his medicinal marijuana.

So while Rogen's character generates much of the laughter, the real treasure of this film is in the subtleties of each character in certain moments ... and each character has their moment. Many will compare this to Adam Sandler's film Funny People, which also starred Seth Rogen. But this movie has infinitely more depth and substance than that one offered.

My warning: brace yourself. My theatre was filled with tears and sniffles, with significant laugh out loud moments mixed in. This is an emotional, self-reflective film that will confound you as you inexplicably laugh while listening to cancer talk.

Reviewed by somf 10 / 10

Certain to capture a slew of Oscar Nominations

I thought this was a better film than "The King's Speech" or "Social Network" my two favorite films of last year. Nothing this year has come close so far to the sheer brilliance of 50/50. It is the best "disease of the week" film ever made, which sounds like a backhanded compliment but I don't know how to describe the genre any better.

I have always felt that Gordon-Levitt along with Gosling are far and away the two best young actors working today. I thought that Gordon-Levitt deserved an Oscar nomination for "The Lookout" but knew that was never going to happen. This is his time. His performance as a young man battling cancer is pitch perfect. You will laugh and cry along with him throughout his difficult journey. His best scenes are with his therapist played by Anna Kendrick. She was good in the overrated "Up in the Air"; she is great in this film, playing another neophyte in a high powered career. She will be nominated as well, no doubt.

Seth Rogan has the role of his career thanks in part to Will Reiser, the screenwriter, who was able to take the whole sexist, slacker, pothead thing that Rogan does and add a dimension of humanity. I think both of them also deserve Oscar nominations. Because of the nature of his role I would be surprised if Rogan gets one, but not too surprised. He is just hilarious and at times very touching.

Finally we come to Jonathan Levine, a director that I had never heard of prior to this film. He is fantastic with actors here and has a great style. I say he is a shoo in come Oscar time.

Now this review has really centered around Oscar and that is for a reason. It will not be released for awhile and I was lucky to see a preview screening in Denver last night. I could think of no other way to get the point across more clearly that this is a brilliant film that you must run to when it is released.

One more thing. I made the mistake of taking my 13 year old daughter thinking the R rating was more about the pot and the language, and that the message of the film would overcome those issues. I kind of regret it. I really don't mind her having seen the film in an overall context because the message is terrific, but man was it raunchy and uncomfortable to sit through with her.

Reviewed by Movie_Muse_Reviews 9 / 10

The perfect balance between drama and comedy, '50/50' depicts cancer the right way

Most movies don't know how to handle cancer. Heck, most people don't know how to handle cancer — and I'm not talking about the patients. Cancer, or any other terminal illness for that matter, almost always plays some kind x-factor in a film — that is when a film even dares to enter a realm often deemed depressing and "not for the movies." Most often, scripts will position cancer as a tearjerking emotional turning point in a film or as the initial spark of some banal "live life to the fullest" comedy.

"50/50" puts an end to that. Written semi-autobiographically by cancer survivor Will Reiser, it would seem it takes one to write one. Although cancer drives the entire story, the story doesn't fixate on cancer or melodramatize the terrible truths we already know about potentially fatal illness. Perhaps you could tell as much from the trailer thanks to some typical Seth Rogen antics, but the injection of contemporary R-rated humor is neither irreverent, insensitive nor an attempt to simply put a positive spin on a depressing subject. Life — believe it or not — doesn't stop for cancer. People don't sit in the hospital the entire time and then lie at home in bed the rest. Reiser's story provides a mostly unforced and honest depiction of a young man's diagnosis and treatment for potentially fatal spinal cancer, one where cancer isn't the conflict in and of itself, but the way it so dramatically changes the behavior of the people whose lives it enters and positively and negatively alters relationships.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his spree of playing absolutely lovable main characters as Adam, a play-it-safe 27-year-old who after the initial shock handles his diagnosis in stride, keeping his ups and downs internal other than when the script cues him to let it out a bit. The more external symptoms come from Adam's girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and mother (Anjelica Huston).

Other than focusing on these relationships, director Jonathan Levine ("The Wackness") puts particular emphasis on character perspective, which will change instantaneously at points throughout the film. In one terrific sequence, Adam enters the hospital for his first chemo treatment and gets bummed out by all the sick and ailing people in the hallway. After the older men he meets while getting treatment (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer) give him some marijuana-filled pastries, he leaves down the same hallway high as a kite, suddenly elated despite the same negative images lining the hall. Levine understands that so much of how you deal with cancer relates to mood and perspective at any given time.

Levine coaxes brilliant and thoughtful performances out of his actors. Even though Rogen exerted his usual shtick a bit more than needed, he handles his character as written, someone who wants desperately to help his best friend but hides behind shallow self-centered form of support that many men turn to because they can't communicate emotions all that well.

The women of "50/50" also deliver if not more so. Howard's character is an unlikable mess but she gives her performance convincingly. Anjelica Huston perfects the ideal on-screen mother, the best since Melissa Leo's Oscar-winning mother in "The Fighter." Anna Kendrick also continues to blow me away with her talent. She plays a psychiatrist working on her PhD who receives Adam as just her third patient. She gives such lifelike quirks to her characters and Katie plays right to her strengths.

But in a drama/comedy about cancer, the key lies in tone and for that Levine should become an A-list director. "50/50" could have easily turned into a Hollywood hack-job like the various comic-toned cancer films before it, a film that either overplays the dramatic or overcompensates with the humorous, but "50/50" might be one of film's best balancing acts between the two. The shifts feel completely natural between moments of deep sentiment and moments of levity. Those who can't help but fixate on this being a movie about cancer will likely have to remind themselves to feel serious when "50/50" just wants you to simply absorb it as you would any other film.

Other than some predictable moments and plot devices to give the film a nicer Hollywood sheen, "50/50" provides a genuine and heartfelt movie experience, one that neither goes for the emotional sucker punch nor the sugarcoated version. Instead of making us look at cancer in a specific way, it makes us look at the way we look at cancer — or any uncomfortable subject — the way we talk about it or don't talk about it, the way we interact with those who live with it and the way we cope with it ourselves. That way when someone we love has a serious problem, we can ultimately do what's best for that person.

~Steven C

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