Tragedy is pretty cut and dry. It’s easy enough to agree that some things that happen in life will make you cry, although everyone has different weep thresholds. It may take cataclysmic natural disasters to squeeze a tear out of you, while just hearing Sarah McLachlan’s Angel on the radio makes me sob uncontrollably (those poor dogs!). But comedy is a bit more subjective. What I laugh at might confuse you; what you find hilarious would probably puzzle me and possibly make me want to move my chair a little further away.

So when the big critics started calling 50/50 “the funny cancer movie”, I wondered what my reaction would be. If you’ve made it this far in life without having anyone you love have to deal with this disease, consider yourself fortunate. The film tells the real life story of a 27-year-old man named Adam who is diagnosed with an aggressive spinal tumour that is considered life-threatening. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt gives a wonderful performance as the television writer who finds himself fighting for his life and trying to manage treatment with a not-so-supportive support system. His girlfriend bails and he won’t return his mother’s calls, so that leaves Seth Rogen as his best friend to try to help him through this crisis. Seth Rogen is played here by Seth Rogen, because he was the real life friend of the author who wrote the script. I can’t fault him for playing the same character he’s played in every other film because he’s playing himself here, but it might be time for Seth to start looking for some variety in scripts. Same thing could be said for Anna Kendrick, whose novice therapist seems to have all the same quirky characteristics as her novice businesswoman in Up in the Air. Angelica Huston gives the best performance of the film, as the smothering mother who could have been a complete caricature but instead is very moving as the overburdened caretaker of both her husband and her son.

The movie deals with the cancer treatment in a matter of fact, not too graphic way, as Adam tries to figure out whom he can rely on when his whole life has been turned upside down. The film does have humorous moments, but it’s not what I would call a laff riot. My reaction to this film was nothing like some of the major critics. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t laugh at the subject matter; on the contrary, I think that’s one of the best ways to deal with an illness. But for some reason, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or their relationships. The whole movie made me sad, not because of the nature of his illness, but because he seemed so alone. And although the point was clearly made that the one person who came through for him was his goofy friend Seth, to me the most emotional thing in the film was the unwavering support of the greyhound his ex-girlfriend made him adopt. The bizarrely bony dog’s name was Skeletor, and there is one tender scene where Adam is lying exhausted on his bed and the dog gently puts his head on his hip. It was almost a Sarah McLachlan moment.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS
Jalpeno rating: ZERO PEPPERS

There is some barfing in the film, but nothing that will set off your gag reflex.

One thought on “50/50

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