TIFF: '50/50' is the bona fide weepie dudes everywhere have been secretly hoping for
“A tumor? Me? That doesn’t make any sense; I don’t drink, I don’t smoke… I recycle.” That’s instantly likeable 27-year-old journalist Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as he struggles to make sense of his sudden cancer diagnosis. The title refers to his odds of overcoming the big C, which everyone around him struggles to accept. There’s his wisecracking best friend (Seth Rogen), his self-absorbed girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his overprotective mother (Anjelica Houston) and the well-intentioned though inexperienced young psychologist (Anna Kendrick) who tries her darndest to counsel the dejected young man, while (not?) falling for him in the process.
Produced by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and directed by Jonathan Levine, the man behind the frankly unconvincing 2008 hip-hop coming of age drama The Wackness, this feels like a huge step up the directorial ladder. For one, the script, inspired by screenwriter’s Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer, hits the mark tonally, balancing out the inescapable 'tear-jerkiness' of a cancer battle with much-needed comic relief (mostly care of Rogen, big surprise!) What’s more, Gordon-Levitt commands the screen with both charisma and vulnerability – you’ll practically feel like you’re watching your best pal battling the life-threatening disease. All the more remarkable given that the 500 Days of Summer player came into the project just a week before production to fill in for James McAvoy. Slight caveats include a few underdeveloped characters, especially Howard’s girlfriend part, whose scenes only call for her to be a one-note, callous wench. Nevertheless, a worthy contender come Oscar season (esp. for aforementioned Gordon-Levitt). It’s one of the most genuinely funny and moving celebrations of male friendship Hollywood has produced of late. The bona fide weepie dudes everywhere have been secretly hoping for.