Most critics have acknowledged how 50/50, directed by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) finds borderline tasteful comedy in any grim situation like young Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose jogging back pains is actually a malignant tumor with an unpronounceable scientific name. There’s also my search in something deeper than that, in how this movie shows these characters within boundaries set both by others and themselves and the crossing of boundaries, as in ‘movie world set-ups’ with resolution to conflicts.
The first scenes competently set-up what the characters are like before the diagnosis wedges itself violently into their situations and these characters often fall within some spectrum between being the funny one and the depressing on, as they would in life. There’s Adam’s best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) who is intentionally funny, his mostly unintentionally funny novice counselor Katherine (Anna Kendrick), his mother Diane (Anjelica Huston) who is only funny from the fourth wall and through an imagined hindsight and his girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is pretty dramatic and sees the illness as a negative thing she can’t fully endure that the thought of entering the hospital wing with him is unthinkable.
Adam at first is the Alan Ruck to Kyle’s Matthew Broderick, their opposites mixing because they work together in radio. The silver lining in his situation other than Kyle’s jokey optimism is how Adam can oscillate within the spectrum of emotion and, as circumstances would have it, move up a bit to see Kyle’s coarse yet optimistic side of things.
The only downside with Adam ‘hanging out with his bro’ is that the mother major characters, who are female, become ignored or occasionally turn into insufferable villains. It’s not hard to make that assumption because of the associations I have about Seth Rogen and the word I used earlier on Twitter. It’s hard for me to side with Adam as he’s cursing at Rachael, the latter crying on his porch.
He also walks out from Katherine’s office, a final symptom of his lack of respect for her, a young inexperienced doctor. Yes, I’m thankful that an exchange exists when Katherine calls Adam out. But despite most of these actions being temporary and all the hurt forgiven, there’s something unapologetic and queasy about Adam and Kyle’s mistreatment and suspicion of women. And of course most of the cancer patients are male and most characters taking care of these men are female and the nurses are perfect lest Adam’s voice strikes with damnation and the script allows him meanness because he might die soon.
Before I get carried away with negativity, let me say that Levitt is more wan here than in any other role in his decade-long film career. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the lack of hair and make-up that comes across the screen but his performance proves that he’s one of the most versatile actors in his age. He’s even one guarded step behind in Adam’s scenes above, instead of acting on intention he behaves instinctively, performing in a naturalistic way. There’s also a scene when, As Adam has shunned everyone else, he and Kyle face each other’s issues, leading to Levitt’s haunting primal scream.
Most of the actors are equally toned down except for Rogen, who has the hard job of carrying the funny side, peppering Kyle’s dialogue with vulgarities. Kendrick tones down the watchable histrionics of her early roles to become the movie’s voice of sanity, Huston beings a hard exterior with softer inner qualities. And it kind of pisses me off that Bryce Dallas Howard can actually act.
Surely everyone diagnosed with cancer is new to it, even Adam’s older chemo buddies. But so is Katherine, admitting that Adam is her third patient. She tries a lot of methods like instrumental meditation music and the polite but tough love, making Adam feel out of the loop in his already precarious state. The one that she keeps returning to is the touching, an act of connection that she has probably seen others do that she feels the need to learn it. It might make sense if an expert psychiatrist pats expertly Adam in the arm three or so times and he accepts it during the last time. We’ll never know how the movie’s alchemy might change if his therapist was ‘some grandma.’ But it is more fitting that her patting is more awkward if she does it incorrectly, symbolic of the rough journey where both the sick and his doctor have to talk to each properly other to finally get it right.
- Film Review: 50/50 (3.5 stars) (arts.nationalpost.com)
Hey, it’s Lucy from “The Office UK“/”Studio 60″/”Ugly Betty.”I don’t know which one of those shows that she had a character named Lucy but I’m gonna call her Lucy anyway. And a guy who plays Poppy’s (Sally Hawkins) brother-in-law in Happy Go Lucky. I swear casts in British films are so incestuous, although they never mix the ‘rich’ ones with the ‘poor’ ones. The one on the middle is Simon Pegg and the one who’s back is facing the audience is a zombie.
His name is Eddie…Paulson? Fact! The first time I saw this film was at Daylight Savings Time at Much More Music. Technically the movie went on for an hour. I also can’t remember how it ends. I’ve always been afraid to watch the movie on the big screen because apparently if you mess up the words, you get stripped in front of everyone. Anyway, Meat Loaf is telling off that boy something fierce. Also, why does every ‘bad’ movie between 1967 to 1980 need a muscle-y blonde man bimbo? That rule still exists today, a muscle-y blonde man bimbo appears as a character in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats.
Was Alfred Molina ever this skinny? Is my question too generous? Although I’ve only seen it enough to get the gist of it, I have the DVD here and my rusty French translates the title to Nights of the Devil or Diabolical Nights or something.
Ohh, Gaad! Anyway, I’ve always thought of Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) as Quentin Tarantino‘s on-screen double. Also, Coconut is so the best song in this movie.
Note to Americans: only the gay Canadians have the ‘beady little eyes.’ And fine, it’s funny hearing Anne Murray being called a bitch.
If I was a Congressman, I’d make America F**k Yeah the national anthem. Although best part of this film involves its parody of Susan Sarandon. And I usually hate homophobia in film, but seeing Tim Robbins and Sean Penn be called F.A.G.’s seemed really funny. Well, mostly because I hate Sean Penn.
After the Team America clip, we have this, and for a split second the curtains and the wallpaper made me think of the balcony space in ‘The Muppets.’ But no, this is a real person from Blue Velvet‘s wacky world. There’s always interludes of 1960’s American songs, and we thank David Lynch for seeing something dark in that decade. Speaking of the 60’s, I wonder what would happen if David Lynch directed an episode of “Mad Men.” Oh wait, that already happened.
Sookie! When I yelled that at the screen, the hipsters in front of me laughed. Funny thing is I don’t even watch “True Blood.” And again, I didn’t even know she was in this movie, especially since I loved Anna Paquin as a child. I previously blogged about how I hate Kate Hudson, but I kinda like her again here. Here her face still looks like that of an awkward teenager’s, and it’s still mesmerizing to watch her sing. I declare an Almost Famous curse, because the cast members except Billy Crudup ended up doing bad movies. Well, Paquin did have 25th Hour, and she’s better than doppelgänger Claire Danes can aspire to be.
I’m so ashamed to not know the lyrics to this song, because my dad is like the biggest Tears for Fears fan and I listened to this stuff in high school. My dad thinks the members of Tears for Fears met in a mental ward. Anyway, my favourite movie in high school, and one that needs revisiting stat! Also, when Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) kiss. Joy Division has never been better used in a soundtrack.
Joseph Gordon Levitt for mayor! Although Joe Levitt would sound like he’s running in the South.
Dance, white boy, dance!
‘Singin’ in the Dark’ programmer Shawn Hitchins says that this is what it’s gonna be like if Rob Ford gets elected for mayor. Best film criticism I’ve heard all year.
Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Nancy in… Sid and Nancy, but the casting agents considered her too young and it went to Chloe Webb. Love thanks the gods for not giving her the role because British TV called Chloe Webb ugly. I agree. And was Gary Oldman ever that young?
And we end this ding along with blasphemy. This is both optimistic and cynical. The Eric Idle character tries to comfort us, but they all end up alone and deserted, no one venerating them for their deaths. Yet.
Multitude of thanks to Hitchins for giving me the list of movies he chose for his sing along “Singin’ in the Dark” as part of this year’s Nuit Blanche, which is like the only event in my calendar. Photos courtesy of Universal (Shaun of the Dead, Blues Brothers) 20th Century Fox (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Alliance Atlantis (Boogie Nights) Miramax (Reservoir Dogs), Paramount (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut), Pandora Films (Donnie Darko), MGM (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy), Fox Searchlight (500 Days of Summer) Warner Brothers’ Pictures (A Clockwork Orange), HandMade Films (Life of Brian).