Friday, October 14, 2011

Opening Scenes: ‘50/50’

By Chip Schrader
Movie Reviewer
“50/50” begins with a shot of moving pavement; a hand holding an iPod moves into the frame. As the camera pans back, we see a man in a sweat suit running along a waterfront with the Seattle skyline on the other side. The man stops at the “Do Not Walk” light, while another jogger runs by him to cross the street, regardless of the sign. The light changes and he proceeds.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays as Adam, the cautious jogger who doesn’t drive because it is the fifth leading cause of death. In spite of his prudence, he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer where mutated genes formed into a tumor along his spinal cord. When telling his 50/50 chance of survival to his best friend Kyle, played by Seth Rogen, Kyle tries to maintain his composure, stating Adam would have better chances than anyone in Vegas with those chances.
The cast is stellar with Anjelica Huston, Anna Kendrick, and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) supporting the painful and complicated journey of a 27-year-old cancer patient. Anjelica Huston is Adam’s mother, a worrier whose husband is marooned in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease. For her own survival, she seeks her son to allow her to care for him, but his girlfriend, played by Howard, leaves viewers scratching their heads with her care-giving methods.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s por-trayal seethes with pain, despair and loneliness until the adversity knots into the viewers’ guts. Just in time, Kyle comes into the scene, insists that his best friend exploit this illness as a means to live his life fully, and uses his vulgar humor to steer the audience and his best friend’s demeanor into lighter territory.
“50/50” will likely introduce Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen to Oscar-conscious audiences and filmmakers. Rogen’s character, in particular, displays that the comedic actor has the chops to be funny in a serious film with this subtly nuanced character. The scenes in the treatment center, Adam’s scenes of private pain, and his anger are very real to those who have witnessed the nature of the disease. Huston shines in the doctor’s office after Adam finally lets her into his private battle; this is the first of many scenes that bring goosebumps in the last third of the movie as Adam’s road to wellness narrows.
Bottom line: “50/50” should not be missed. Viewers will get chills from the deep humanity of the male friendship that inspired this story, and the struggles of a patient who always had to play protector. Scenes with an icy physician and a young psychologist needing a case study for her doctorate subtly indicate the commonplace shortcomings of healthcare. But, the sweeping political commentary is kept at bay as the heart of the story is the most inspiring. This film will make audiences hurt, hate, love, and laugh many times over. “50/50” is based on a true story and makes us revel that friendships like this really exist. 4.5 out of 5.
Photo caption: (Courtesy movie poster image)