Movies: ’50/50′ Mercilessly Jerks Tears With Dimply Smiles

His therapist (Anna Kendrick) sees through the calm facade but doesn't yet have the skill – she's only a grad student – to shake him from what she sees as numb shock. His overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston, just superb in an agonizingly small role. More! More!) could worry him right out of peacefulness so he ignores her.  

Despite the intense focus on Adam and his life-threatening illness, the movie is generous enough to make sure that each of its supporting characters get at least one scene wherein you suddenly understand how hard Adam's illness is for them when they're offscreen. Except Rachael, that is. Between this and The Help Bryce Dallas Howard is in danger of becoming shorthand typecasting for Detestable Woman You're Supposed to Hate. It's a blemish on this otherwise kind-hearted movie that it takes such joy in hating her. In fact, it actually burns her in effigy!

5050-shaving To 50/50's credit, whether or not Adam will survive doesn't seem to be the driving thrust of the story. Instead 50/50 concerns itself with charting Adam's dawning awareness of his own feelings, collecting sympathetic obversations (Adam's relationship with an adopted dog is subtlely handled) and crude but funny diversions (Kyle is obsessed with using cancer to score them both sympathy-sex). It's in the slow accumulation of these laughs and details that the movie truly pays off. Out of nowhere your eyes are watering and the lump in your throat won't quit. Points of entry to Teary Mess Land will undoubtedly vary from moviegoer to moviegoer but for me it was a simple no-fuss scene in which Kyle passes out drunk and Adam heads to Kyle's bathroom only to discover his best friend's surprising reading material. The movie, like its bromantic central friendship, pretends to be casual but the feelings run deep.

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, recently married offscreen, play a married couple who have a nightmarish experience in their new DREAM HOUSE. Anna Faris plays a single woman tracking down ex-boyfriends with the help of her shirtless neighbor Chris Evans in WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? (Gee I wonder who she ends up with.) In limited release Michael Shannon has Oscar-buzzing apocalyptic nightmares in the unsettling drama TAKE SHELTER and Anna Paquin stars as a guilt-ridden teen who may have caused a horrible death in MARGARET. Don't be alarmed if Paquin appears preternaturally youthful. The movie, beset by post production and legal problems, was filmed before she ever fell for those handsome horny vampires in Bon Temps!


Finally, the New York Film Festival begins tonight with the premiere of Roman Polanski's CARNAGE (my review), an adaptation of the Tony winning play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza. Oscar winners Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz (plus John C Reilly) make up the squabbling quartet. In short: Prestige movie season has begun, everyone marching towards Oscar though few will reach that naked gold man.


  1. verybookish says

    “It’s in the slow accumulation of these laughs and details that the movie truly pays off. Out of nowhere your eyes are watering and the lump in your throat won’t quit”
    This captures the movie so well. I saw 50/50 a couple weeks ago at TIFF and it was fantastic.

  2. Mark Penti says

    Ever since “Latter Days” I’ve been in love with Joseph Gordon-Leavett, he’s Oscar material, I thought he’d get a nom for “Inception”. He’s already a force (of acting )to be dealt with & to say he’s going places is too little too late, he’s been “on top” for awhile…

  3. says

    I also really liked the film. My only major criticism is that the physician depicted in the film, particularly in the diagnosis scene, comes off as cold, technical, and uncaring. This is not how the vast majority of physicians would treat a patient with cancer, particularly one this young. I have been a nurse practitioner for over a decade and have treated an innumerable number of cancer patients and I have never seen one treated like this. I felt it was unnecessary and distracting instead of adding to the seriousness and dramatic elements of the scene. Regardless, I still would grade the movie an A-.

  4. Will Green says

    To comment on Dr. Blackwell’s about the depiction of the uncaring doctor in the movie. I saw the film at TIFF, and Will, who wrote the screenplay (and who’s real life experience the film is based on) mentioned in the Q&A that the majority of people who treated him were fantastic, but a couple of doctors were exactly like that – cold and technical. Overall, Will was extremely thankful for his treatment, since he’s still alive to tell about it.

  5. Jim says

    Also Bryce Dallas Howard played the role of deadly vampire ‘Victoria’ in the “Twilight” saga’s “Eclipse”; another ‘love to hate her’ role. I also saw the dismissal of her character in 50/50 differently: Adam “ridding” himself of Rachael is symbolic of him ridding himself of his cancer. Sometimes I wish I could rid myself of such toxic and unloving people in my life. I don’t see it as hating her, I see it as ridding yourself of a person who brought poison into your life.

  6. Jay Lo says

    Great article! I thought the movie 50/50 was awesome I didn’t originally plan on watching it. I was finally convinced by my coworker from DISH. She said it was awesome and I would like it. I use my DISH online feature to bring me the most access to movies and TV shows. This is a great source for access to thousands of movies TV shows and I can watch live TV. I can log on with my iPad and view right my DVR content. This is what I use a lot staying in motels, when nothing good is on. This will deliver exactly what I want and lets me get the most from my service.

  7. says

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt is superb in this film, which is well-written and tackles the subject of cancer both accurately and sensitively. Surprisingly easy to watch, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable.

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