Tuesday, April 17, 2012

50/50 - Light Hearted Mortality

Adam is 27. He has a career writing stories for a radio show, a girlfriend who paints abstract, a wise cracking best friend who's eternally conspiring on picking up girls, a inundating mother who patiently cares for her husband afflicted with Alzheimer's. But Adam suffers from intermittent back pains. One day, he's told by his doctor that he has Neurofibrosarcoma and Schwannoma - which are spinal cancers (it's a tumor at the neural sheath that wraps around our nerves).

His chances: 50/50!

If you think it's going to be one of those mawkish "disease of the month dramas", you'd be perfectly off tangent. It's actually one of those light hearted dramedies much like George Clooney's "The Descendants". Moreover, it's based on a true story.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as Adam, once again displays what an intuitive actor he is. It's quite perplexing why he doesn't even merit a nomination from the Oscar. And while we're on that subject, the divine Anjelica Huston, playing Adam's mother Diane, packs a richly nuanced portrayal of an overbearing mother who would rather keep her personal woes to herself. When she defensively informs Adam's psychologist Katherine (the fabulous Anna Kendrick of "Up in the Air" and the "Twilight" saga) : "I smother my son because I love him," you fathom the complicated, albeit affectionate dynamics of this mother-and-son relationship - and it broke my heart. Some people have odd ways of loving and of coping. Indeed, some hold on too tightly, too stiflingly.

I have never been fond of Seth Rogen (playing Adam's best friend Kyle), but here, he surprisingly enraptures. I was quite taken with his turn.

Director Jonathan Levine's "50/50" will take you to a leisurely emotional journey; one that lingers and bestows a life affirming sentiment to his audience. The film also succeeds in avoiding overtly maudlin emotionality. Considering its subject, that's a tall order.

Adam and Kyle

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Rachel, Adam's fair-weather girl friend. Howard unintentionally came up with the film's title, "50/50".

Anna Kendrick captures the essence of a really bad psychologist. Her struggle to "try so hard" unsettles.

Anjelica Huston plays Adam's mother

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: another out-of-the-box performance. He accepted the role 2 days before they started the shoot. James McAvoy was initially tasked to play Adam but had to beg off for personal reasons.

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