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KC Movie Rec: 50/50

October 16, 2011

Two weeks ago, the movie 50/50 opened in theaters. I saw it opening day. You might be saying, “So you’re just blogging about it now, Virginia? What’s up with that?” Yeah, yeah. I’m slow. That’s old news.

Sometimes it’s good to think about a movie for a while and decide what the true takeaway was, right? Right.

First, the premise, lifted shamelessly from IMDb: “Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.” The screenplay was written by Will Reiser, and the “inspired by a true story” refers to Will’s own diagnosis and struggle with cancer.

Second, upfront disclosure: As well as dealing with a the big issue of cancer (ptooey), this movie is a modern bromance with the common trappings of mature language, drug reference/use, and sex. If you’re looking for something family friendly, steer clear.

Now the good stuff, the review:

I normally avoid modern buddy comedies. 50/50, however, is a buddy comedy with a big difference: It’s dealing with a serious, heavy topic. When something like cancer comes along and weighs down your life, there is no avoiding the heaviness of it…but there are moments of levity that stand out even when the reality of life and death is holding you down.

That said, it’s not the levity in this movie that will stick with the viewer two weeks later. Maybe it has a little something to do with the sparse audience at the screening of the movie I attended, but for me the humor of the movie wasn’t full of belly laughs. The humor in this film was smart, sly, and wry. SPOILER: For example, when Adam, the main character, gets his first round of chemotherapy, his two fellow chemo patients (great side characters, by the way) give him heavily weed-laced brownies macaroons (update: sorry, had that wrong). He walks out of chemo as high as a kite, and the camera follows him as he walks, slow motion and fuzzy, down the hospital hall, giggling at a mural and seriously ill patients he passes. It was easy for me to laugh with him at the mural, but I started to feel awkward giggling with him at the patients. When he passes two nurses wheeling a gurney with a body bag, we see that his face has become somber. The somberness doesn’t last, though, as the weed gets to him and he bursts into giggles again. At that, I couldn’t laugh with him, even though I could see and acknowledge the humor in the fact that he couldn’t control himself.

This movie is a delicate blending of comedy and drama. I love delicate flavors.

Scene clip, just for fun:

Another scene that stuck out to me: Adam was getting driven home by his therapist, the young and conveniently attractive Katherine, who had a lot of trash in her car. (Been there.) Adam hadn’t been very open or accommodating in his therapy sessions so far. After they talk a bit, Adam tells Katherine to pull over in front of a dumpster. Adam starts cleaning out the trash while Katherine scrambles to help. Why yes, yes I did get smacked over the head with that symbolism.

(Actually, I could have done without the side romance between Adam and Katherine. I don’t think it was necessary, only a nod and a bow to Hollywood formula. However, every time the story threatened to veer off into a love story, it quickly got back on track, for which I’m thankful.)

I have to point out one more scene just for its beautiful and brutal realism. SPOILER: Near the very end, Adam is in the hospital just before a vital surgery, which itself carries a high degree of risk. Adam is clearly nervous but keeping it together. His parents are with him. When a nurse comes and puts something in Adam’s IV, he asks whether that’s the anesthetic to put him to sleep, and when he finds out that it is, Adam’s thin facade of strength crumbles into fear, and he clings to his mother in tears.

I would have loved this movie for that scene alone, but I love it for a lot of other reasons, too.

The movie did fall into a trap (at least in my opinion) in that it was difficult to draw to a close. I could tell this was going to happen as the movie was wrapping up: The final line didn’t quite hit the right note for me. I’m being very picky, but as a writer I wish I could have gotten my hands on that ending and done it a little bit differently. Ah, well, that’s minor.

You know what I’m going to do next? Read movie reviews for this film. I’ve been aching to read reviews for the past two weeks, but I’ve refrained in order to avoid getting influenced. I look forward to finding out what others think of the movie.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

UPDATE: And sometimes, a movie review finds me. Dan from Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews stopped by in comments. He has a great review of 50/50 right here. Check it out if you’d like a different perspective that will further convince you to see this movie.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2011 3:10 am

    I haven’t seen it! But will have to go check it out!

    • October 17, 2011 12:04 am

      If/when you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you write up a review on your blog, let me know, and I’ll update this post with a link to it.

  2. October 16, 2011 3:19 pm

    Mixing humor and painful subject matter is, naturally, very difficult. The beauty of this movie is that it does so with ease, especially with such good actors in these roles as well. Good review. I hope this at least some Oscar nods, but it doesn’t seem like it will actually happen.

    • October 17, 2011 12:14 am

      Thank you! That’s such a nice compliment to get from someone whose blog focuses on movie reviews.

      I’m going to update my post with a link to your review, which is excellent. 🙂 Glad you stopped by.

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