Saturday, December 31, 2011

Movie Review: 50/50

Compassion For Life

      Embedded in Will Reiser's autobiographical script, which springs to life from the jovial stewardship of Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), is an axiom of humanity that I, myself, learned from an Eastern Philosophies class after being subjected to a quaint little film, Patch Adams. This axiom, transplanting space and time, consists of a core human function: Compassion. While Patch treats this universal philosophy blithely, almost in a reductive course, the message still resonates. A philosophy of compassion, exemplified in the treatment of patients through humor and humility, is one I suspect Reiser identifies with most closely.
      Ultimately, what distinguishes 50/50 from films like the moribund Patch Adams is a tacit subsumption of comedy and honesty. The best comedies function as either overt caricatures of real life or brutally irreverent depictions of life's ironies. 50/50 satisfies neither condition yet it produces some of the best laughs of 2011. The reason, which is also a commonality of great comedy, is chemistry. If the actors delineate an honest reality—in the case of 50/50, with delicate strides of levity and buoyancy—then moviegoers, who require an investment in the characters' well-being, are able to accept the occasional absurdity of the proceedings. Mr. Director: Tread delicately along the path of incongruous detours. 
      The exceptional and delightful ensemble cast solidifies this genial approach. Seth Rogen combats the myriad accusations of He-Just-Can't-Act by delivering, arguably, the most complete and engaging performance of his career. And one of the leading men of my If-I-Were-Gay bandwagons (incidentally, I'm not, not that there's anything wrong with that), Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, burrows deeper into his performance canvas, illuminating a cerebral dynamism the likes of which most modern actors dare only dream (yep, I may have overstated his talent just a tad). Complementing JGL is the lovely Anna Kendrick who, every time I see her, I'm further convinced of, what I'll term, her subtle, subtextual sophistication: Timely character decisions that elicit an eloquence of both action and tone.  It is difficult to embody, with any measured authenticity, the melancholy of cancer, and yet, perhaps from the recesses of Reiser's own macabre encounter, are Levine, JGL, Rogen, Kendrick and company able to, with dramatic and comedic effectuation, capture its human impact. 

9 out of 10 

*****P.S. 50/50 did make my Top 10 Movies of 2011 List, so be on the look out for this exact review in the ensuing days when I will unveil, in totality, my ten favorites. 


  1. Great write-up, Matty! I should become a pro! :)
    I liked this movie a lot, but I doubt it would make my top 10 of 2011. Joseph was incredible, but Seth annoyed me a bit, because I hate this i-don't-care-about-anything type of behavior.

  2. Great review!! I have really really wanted to see this but have somehow missed the boat completely. I will be all over it when it arrives on DVD. I too love Joseph Gordon-Levitt there is just something about him that is just amazing as an actor that I can't necessarily put my finger on. I guess he just seems honest, I don't know. Again, great review!

  3. Oh how I loved this film. JGL just gets more incredible with each performance. I have admired him and watched him since 3rd Rock, seeing how held his own against the likes of Lithgow and Curtin at such a young age.

    This film really hits the heart of catastrophic illness and indeed tragedy in general. As someone who has been in the trenches with people fighting the disease, there are those strangely comedic moments that just make you laugh. And laughter truly is the best medicine. This was one of my top films as well. Terrific review and I look forward to your complete list.