Okay, next up is “50/50,” a comedy about cancer – which would sound like a tricky proposition. But this is only the second movie I’ve given four stars to all year. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Adam, who learns in his mid-20s that he has a large tumor growing on his spine, and he has a 50-percent chance of surviving it. Seth Rogen is his usual crass, funny self as his best friend, who tries to be supportive.
Adam is sent to a therapist to work through all the expected feelings of denial, frustration and fear. She’s a young, eager beaver played by the delightful Anna Kendrick – and as it turns out, Adam is only her third patient.
What’s amazing about “50/50” is the way director Jonathan Levine achieves just the right tone every time. His film is uproariously funny but also tender and deeply affecting without trying too hard to be. You see developments looming on the horizon that would seem obvious, but the characters are so well drawn that there are plenty of surprises and moments of real honesty. So a very enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
IGNATIY: Not only can I not believe you like this film, but I can’t believe that you like it this much.
CHRISTY: I do because it’s really good.
IGNATIY: No, it’s not. You’re being conned. You are being…
CHRISTY: No, I’m not okay what’s wrong. What is wrong here?
IGNATIY: Okay, one of many problems with this film…
IGNATIY: Many, many problems with this film is the Bryce Dallas Howard character.
IGNATIY: Who is not…it’s even a stretch to call her a character. Bryce Dallas Howard plays a, you know, misogynists revenge fantasy essentially.
CHRISTY: No, she is fleshed out way more than you think she’s going to be. She’s at the beginning one of the big surprises here in that you think she’s despicable, but she is developed enough that you almost feel sympathy for her toward the end.
IGNATIY: She’s…I don’t think so. She’s not even two-dimensional. She’s a one-dimensional character
CHRISTY: She’s conflicted in believable ways.
IGNATIY: I mean this movie is essentially; it’s a romantic comedy with a cancer gimmick, and with, you know, with this ex…this girlfriend who later becomes the ex-girlfriend character played by Bryce Dallas Howard with the…the problem with her it’s a crippling flaw in the film. It doesn’t work, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s such, you know, his character is so perfect. He’s so nice.
CHRISTY: He’s not. No, he’s emotionally closed off. He’s surly. He’s rude…
IGNATIY: Oh, he’s emotionally closed off.
CHRISTY: To this poor sweet therapist who’s just trying to help him, and he handles things poorly. Everyone handles things poorly here and that’s why this movie works because it’s real, and it’s human.
IGNATIY: I wouldn’t say…I think there are good performances in here, and I think that they, for example, Seth Rogen, who has a really natural gift for chemistry. I mean you could put him in a movie with a rock, and he would be a convincing best friend to this rock. But I just…to me this film is thin, and I think, I think it’s putting on, you know, airs.
CHRISTY: No, there’s way more to his character than you think there’s going to be. You think this is the typical Seth Rogen character but there’s generosity and kindness toward the end that you don’t expect.
IGNATIY: Which is revealed, you know, in a single object in this very screenwriterly trade.
CHRISTY: No, no, no it’s a whole arc. Anna Kendrick is great in it. Anjelica Huston in just like two scenes you think she’s the smothering mom. There’s a lot more going on with her character. This is a very moving film. You’re heartless.
IGNATIY: I was, I was not, I am not heartless.
CHRISTY: You are. People were crying all around me. You’re just heartless.