Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrestles with the Big C


(C) IWC Productions, LLC.

Directors: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick
Time Out rating:

Modern bromance edges towards the serious with this comedy-drama about a Seattle radio exec, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who develops a rare form of cancer, and the goofy best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen), who urges him to turn his frown upside down and use his newfound condemned-man cachet to pull chicks.

Questions of poor taste are partly sidestepped by the fact that writer Will Reiser was inspired by his own battle with the big C, and although his script never gets to grips with the ugly reality of the disease, it has the ring of truth to it. The acting, too, is mostly superb, especially Gordon-Levitt in a tricky, often unsympathetic lead role.

Elsewhere, 50/50 runs into trouble: Jonathan Levine’s direction is sitcom-flat and the soundtrack is stuffed with predictable indie whinge-rock from the likes of Radiohead and Pearl Jam. Most damaging of all, the film’s female characters run the gamut of misogynist cliché: Anna Kendrick is sympathetic but non-threatening as the love interest, while the treatment of Adam’s flighty, unsupportive ex-girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) develops from dismissive to vicious, a bitter streak also reflected in Rogen’s bullish, unlikeable turn and a shrill, throwaway appearance by Angelica Huston as Adam’s flappy mum.

So, on the one hand there are a brace of memorable one-liners, some powerhouse performing and an infectious sense of joie de vivre in the face of extreme duress; on the other, a sad lack of cinematic ambition and some shady gender politics. 50/50 is about right.

50/50 opens nationwide on December 1

By Tom Huddleston
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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