The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 28, 2012

Serious illness good for grossout film ‘50/50’


Star Beacon

— Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen play typical 20-somethings in the film “50/50.”

Rogen, of course, is once again the best friend. He plays Kyle and his work and bar buddy is Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Now Adam is a bit more low-key, less flamboyant. Rogen’s character is obsessed with going to bars and picking up chicks.

It looks like another grossout movie and to some extent, it is.

But very quickly it takes a different turn. The Gordon-Levitt character has a routine doctor’s appointment where he learns from a mumbling, stumbling doctor that he has cancer.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays his girlfriend, who takes him to chemo but chooses to wait four hours in the car because she doesn’t like the whole hospital experience.

You can quickly tell the relationship is in trouble and comes to an abrupt end.  Meanwhile, Adam finds true friendship in some older men having chemo at the same time, played by the gruff but great Phillip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer.

These 60s-somethings get along well with Adam, even coaxing him into enjoying some of their pot-laced cookies. A priceless scene in the film is Adam leaving the hospital in an out-of-focus fog, high as a kite, smiling and happy as he views the misery that cancer can cause.

Anjelica Huston plays his “it’s all about me” mother and Serge Houde plays his dementia-driven dad. It’s a thankless role but Houde gives it as much dimension as it can be given.

The Rogen character truly cares for his friend, but also won’t miss a chance of scoring with a chick by taking him to a bar, getting some girls to feel sorry for him and then taking one of the girls home.

Rogen is also jealous of Adam’s doomed love affair and takes great joy in getting a picture with his camera phone of the girl kissing a Jesus-like artist at an art gallery.

A backdrop through all of this is Adam’s relationship to his soon-to-be-a-doctor therapist, played by the perky Anna Kendrick. When Adam makes a joke about “Doogie Houser,” the old TV show about a teenage doctor, she doesn’t understand. She’s too young.

But that is the relationship to watch.

The film does a nice job of doing some grossout comedy while giving us a somewhat realistic view of dealing with cancer.

The title comes from Adam looking up his particular cancer on the Internet and learning most patients have a 50-50 chance of survival.

There are many nice moments. Adam is about to have an operation that could cure or kill him. His clueless father tells him about his new sports jacket. But to Adam, he is saying his father does have an idea of what is going on and loves him.

It might be the most mature grossout film ever. Yeah, Rogen’s character goes overboard and after awhile you just want him to shut up.

And yes, Huston becomes too motherly. But you know, people can be annoying in real life.

“50 /50” works on many levels. It is worth your time.

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