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The odds are good for ‘50/50’

September 29th, 2011

Wait, cancer isn’t supposed to be funny, right? Well, Joseph Gordon-Levitt begs to differ.

His new movie “50/50” has all the makings of your typical Judd Apatow comedy, with the exception that the main character has cancer. It’s heavier in the drama department, and Judd Apatow is in no way involved in the project. Don’t worry, Seth Rogen is in it, so there’s that.

Speaking of Judd Apatow, many will probably compare “50/50” to his last film, “Funny People.” Both films have main characters with cancer and are billed as comedies.

But these two movies could not be more different. For one, “50/50” is actually funny.

It’s not just funny, it’s hilarious. It’s also more dramatically effective. “50/50” is the rare movie that succeeds fully as both a drama and a comedy.

“50/50” follows the story of Adam (played by the excessively likable Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an average Joe who works at a radio station.

Adam plays everything extremely safe. He doesn’t smoke or drink, and is so overly cautious that he refuses to even drive a car. His overly cautious lifesytle makes it all the more surprising when he is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer.

The story follows him as he deals with his predicament, aided by his therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick), and his womanizing best friend Kyle, played by the omnipresent Seth Rogen (seriously, that man is in everything).

Also along for the cancer ride is Adam’s girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), who may or may not be ready to help Adam through his difficult journey.

The story moves along with a brisk confidence that is not often seen in films this small.

The smart, semi-autobiographical script by Will Reiser is consistently funny and moving, and gives the actors room to give their characters depth.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves that he is one of the great actors of his generation. He has an amazing talent for playing the everyman. His performance is relatable, subtle, and real. Specifically, a scene in which he reaches a breaking point, showcases an Oscar-worthy performance.

Anna Kendrick is adorable as usual, playing a therapist who hasn’t even graduated school yet, but assures Adam that he is not her first patient (he’s actually her third). Bryce Dallas Howard works out of her usual comfort zone, playing a nauseatingly unlikable character who you feel sympathy for.

Seth Rogen gives a terrific performance as usual. But this time, Rogen gets to play a womanizer, instead of a dork who can’t get the girl.

As someone who’s grown incredibly sick of his overexposure in the past couple years, he’s great in the film and as goofy and hilarious as he’s ever been. Rogen’s performance was the biggest surprise of the movie.

It should be noted that even though this movie is about cancer, it is also raunchy as hell.

There are scenes of nudity and countless jokes about the male anatomy. They work 100 percent of the time and never take away from the character development or otherwise serious tone of the movie.

“50/50” is a movie that demands to be seen. Despite its few flaws (why can Adam ride in a car but not drive one?), it’s one of the better movies of the year, featuring a breakthrough performance by Gordon-Levitt.