Monday, October 10, 2011

A Frank Review of "50/50" (2011)

The Short Version? Got Cancer?
What Is It? Dramedy.
Who Is In It? The kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, the dude from Knocked-Up, the chick from Up in the Air, Opie's daughter, and the mom from every Wes Anderson movie.
Should I See It? Yes.

Just to get it out of the way, this is a Lifetime movie for men. It's Pepsi Max. It's as simple as that. A protagonist that acts as a proxy for the audience is diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease and must deal with the emotional and material repercussions on his life. Since this is the version of that formula for guys, it also spends a lot of time figuring out how cancer will effect our lead's ability to get a nut, as well as the coping mechanisms preferred by men under such circumstances. Since this type of movie is rarely viewed from a perspective other than "the triumph of the spirit" or tearjerking pussified bullshit, it's actually affective and entertaining. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fantastic job of conveying his character's emotions as subtly as possible, maintaining a poker face and a tight lip. Men in life don't hug each other and weep together, nor do they offer overwrought monologues at pivotal moments. The movie is autobiographical, and the integrity of how men really deal with adversity is maintained throughout, making it something of a must see for women who'd like to better understand these things. For the record, my girlfriend cried through at least a full quarter of the running time.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent. Seth Rogen essentially plays himself, a big-hearted lug who has difficulty expressing himself outside broage. Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall are completely real as fellow cancer patients with their own difficulties. Anjelica Huston is great as the overbearing mother who through her actions offers a peek at why the lead is as he is. Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard are loveable even as their characters are the least developed and most transparently stock. As I said, this movie offers insight into the male psyche, but is as arch about the opposite sex as its y-deprived kindred. Well written, well directed, and a good soundtrack if you can forgive the use of "Yellow Ledbetter." See it with someone you love, probably bearing testicles.

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