ⓘ 50/50 (2011 film)
50/50 is a 2011 American comedy-drama film directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Will Reiser, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston. The film is loosely inspired by Reisers own experience with cancer, with Rogens character Kyle based on Rogen himself. It was released on September 30, 2011, and grossed million, and received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Gordon-Levitts performance and Reisers screenplay.
Adam Lerner Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a 27-year-old public radio journalist in Seattle with girlfriend and artist Rachael Bryce Dallas Howard of whom best friend and co-worker Kyle Seth Rogen disapproves. While Kyle is brash and outspoken, Adam is more introverted and mild-mannered.
After experiencing harsh pains in his back, Adam is diagnosed with schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, a malignant tumor in his spine, and must undergo chemotherapy. He sees on the Internet that survival is 50/50. After Adam reveals this, his overbearing mother, Diane, who nurses her Alzheimers-stricken husband Richard, offers to care for him but Adam declines, as Rachael has already promised to take care of him.
While at one of his treatments, Adam meets Mitch and Alan, two older cancer patients also undergoing chemotherapy, and they become friends. Rachael is uncomfortable during his treatments and is often late to pick him up. She also gets him a retired racing greyhound as a pet, named Skeletor. Throughout Adams struggle, Kyle attempts to maintain his morale, helping Adam shave his head and openly using his illness to pick up women. While on a date, Kyle sees Rachael with another man at a gallery and takes a photo, later forcing her to confess to infidelity by showing it to Adam, who breaks up with her. He starts to follow Kyles advice, using his illness to successfully pick up two women at a bar.
Meanwhile, Adam is being treated by a young, inexperienced therapist, Katherine McKay Anna Kendrick, a PhD candidate doing the clinical aspect of her thesis at the hospital. Although their relationship and sessions begin unevenly, he slowly begins to open up to her. After she drives him home after one of his chemo sessions, the two develop a rapport, blurring their professional and personal relationship. She helps Adam understand his mothers situation and that even loved ones feel just as much stress as the patient, which helps Adam repair the rift between him and his mother.
After Mitch dies, Adams fear of his potential death and future surface as he is subsequently informed that he needs to undergo surgery. The night before, Adam argues with an intoxicated Kyle, demanding that he drive even though he cannot. After a near miss, Adam breaks down and berates Kyle for seemingly not taking him seriously and using it for his own gain. Adam calls Katherine and tells her that he wishes he had a girlfriend like her, but also says he is tired and just wants it to be over. That night, Adam stays at Kyles and finds a book entitled Facing Cancer Together from their first trip to a bookstore where Kyle picked up the shop clerk - filled with notes, highlighted paragraphs and turned-down pages, proving that Kyle sincerely cares and has been simply continuing to treat Adam the same since his diagnosis.
The next day, Kyle drops Adam off, who embraces Kyle for being a good friend and apologizes for the previous night. After Adam says his farewells to family, he undergoes the surgery. During the wait, Katherine goes to the waiting room and inadvertently meets Adams family and Kyle. After the surgery, Kyle, Diane, and Katherine are told that although the bone degradation was worse than they had thought, the tumor was removed successfully, and that Adam will recover.
Some time later, Adam is getting ready for a date with Katherine, while Kyle encourages him and cleans the incision on Adams back from the surgery. The doorbell rings and Adam lets Katherine inside. After Kyle leaves, Katherine asks, "Now what?," and Adam simply smiles - at last being free of cancer.
2. Development and production
The screenplay is loosely based on the experience of screenwriter Will Reiser, friend of the films co-lead, Seth Rogen. Reiser is also close with Evan Goldberg of Da Ali G Show. The film was going to be called Im with Cancer before it was announced that this was a working title. The film was later renamed Live with It and then 50/50.
James McAvoy was going to play the lead role before he left the film due to personal reasons, as he was afraid of missing the birth of his first child, and was replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Principal photography was scheduled from February 22, 2010, to March 31, 2010. The film was mostly filmed in Richmond and Vancouver, British Columbia as well as Seattle, Washington.
The head-shaving scene in the film was featured on the movie posters and commercials. At the 50/50 premiere in New York, Gordon-Levitt said, "We only had one take because you cant shave your head twice." Rogen recalled, "It was the first day of filming, and we improvised the whole thing, which is not wise when its something you have one take for, but it turned out funny."
3.1. Reception Critical response
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 93%, based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 7.65/10. The sites critical consensus reads, "A good-hearted film about a difficult topic, 50/50 maneuvers between jokes and drama with surprising finesse." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score, gives the film a score of 72 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Sean Burns wrote in the Philadelphia Weekly that Levine "knows how to stay out of the way long enough to let a very talented cast shine, and Rogens fundamental, unexpected decency, which can often only be expressed through shoulder-punching obscenities, grows more quietly moving as the picture wears on."
David Schmader, writing in the Stranger, praises "50/50s stellar cast, from the omnipresent lead Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose Rankin/Bass puppet face is put to beautifully nuanced use to the all-star supporting cast: Anjelica Huston roars back to prominence with a twisty performance as Adams barely contained mess of a mom, and Anna Kendricks young doctoral student makes the films rom-com aspirations not-ridiculous with her intelligent spontaneity and cute smile. But the comedy star is Seth Rogen, cast in the same role he played in screenwriter Reisers life."
3.2. Reception Accolades
The film was nominated for two awards at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. Gordon-Levitt received a nomination for Best Actor Musical or Comedy and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture Musical or Comedy.
Some fans of the film were surprised at the films lack of an Academy Award nomination. Seth Rogen addressed this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying he predicted that it wouldnt be nominated, saying that he knows for a fact that "some people are appalled by the movie." He said of this, "I think it must be people who have very, very personal connections to the subject matter and just cant emotionally disconnect from their own experience. I respect that. But what we found for the most part is that people like to laugh at tragedy. It makes them feel better."
4. Home media
50/50 was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in North America on January 24, 2012. Both releases include commentary, deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes videos.
No official soundtrack was released, however several songs appear in the film, such as:
- "Soul Connection" – The Diplomats of Solid Sound
- "Too Late for Dancing" – Shapes and Sizes
- "To Love Somebody" – Bee Gees
- "Work to Do" – The Aggrolites
- "Bricks or Coconuts" – Jacuzzi Boys
- "New Country" – The Walkmen
- "High and Dry" – Radiohead
- "Simplicity" – Harmony & Balance
- "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack" – Liars
- "Crying" – Roy Orbison
- "Yellow Ledbetter" – Pearl Jam
- "Stay the Same" – autoKratz
- "Days Gone Down Still Got the Light in Your Eyes" – Gerry Rafferty
- "Turn It Down" – Sideway Runners