There’s something harrowing about the inevitable. Something utterly heartbreaking about the end.
50/50 is a portrait of the complications in facing death; being diagnosed with cancer and being able to resonate with what’s left with life. Delivered an unusual and challenging balance of humor in tragedy, this is a tale that couldn’t get closer to the heart of such concepts.
Our protagonist is a straight-forward and ideal post-modern guy in his youth named Adam; played by Joesph Gordon-Levitt. He’s public radio writer with only a best friend and a girlfriend in his life; clearly not fulfilled with anything, but he sighs each day and makes do. There is no dramatization, no build-up or exaggerated emotional release. Everything around him fades away when hears the “C-word” and his own name used together. Almost as if it were a mistake. Surely, it can’t be him. Of course not. There must be some mistake. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. Denial.
We experience Adam’s stages through each blistering moment, each heartbreak, each upset, each flicker of hope right alongside him. As life molds out the shifts Adam’s life has taken, we experience the vulnerability he wears on his sleeve, the silent torment, the detached approach to his world. What makes 50/50 so powerful is how intimate we are with Levitt’s character and especially how Levitt, as an actor, portrays Adam through each layer.
There’s always been a remarkable quality in every one of Levitt’s performances. From setting high standards in romance and comedy for his generation, much like Jack Lemmon did for his, all the way to producing visceral and disturbing characters of his own. Levitt colors himself in over and over again dramatically throughout his films ranging from the likes of (500) Days of Summer and 10 Things I Hate About You to Mysterious Skin and Brick. Levitt reveals himself in a completely new light with 50/50, displaying a very conscious individual, fully consumed by his own tragedy and desperate to seek refuge through life’s sense of humor.
That’s the main focal point 50/50, its complexion of humor and death. This is not a dark comedy. 50/50 delivers the exact idiosyncratic nature of how comedy effects one engulfed in sadness. No matter how much you could make Adam laugh or make him feel loved, he kept being snapped back into reality. Especially when his surroundings treated him poorly, it’s just even worse. 50/50 is not an easy film to swallow; this is the most challenging comedy I’ve ever watched.
50/50 is a work of affection and pure honesty. The ups and downs of cancer and the true understanding of the value of the human spirit. This is not just an emotionally tormenting film, but a rare feat in blending challenging genres to beautifully match with those of reality. You will never see a film of this emotional magnitude with comedy. It attacks you with silence, crushes your heart with laughter and buries you with heartache.
This film was my dad.