Pick of Netflix: 50/50

Katie O’Sullivan reviews the poignant 50/50.

While sitting at home and flicking through Netflix for something to watch, a film about cancer may not be on top of your list but 50/50 directed by Jonathan Levine adds a new twist to the well played out drama genre.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, the film charts the changes in this young man’s life as he is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal Cancer at the age of twenty-seven. Set in Seattle, Washington we watch as this radio programme writer attempts to fight the disease which is so prominent across the world today.

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His girlfriend Rachel,played by Bryce Dallas Howard, provides a strange mix of support and betrayal in the film. She wants to separate the Adam she likes from the sickly, chemotherapy-needing one she leaves at the hospital.

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Adam shuts himself in, he is rigid and set in his ways, perhaps too much; certainly his friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) would think so. Kyle continually encourages Adam to embrace the “advantages” of being ill: the women, the drugs. He is all too willing to look on the bright side of life and Rogen’s typically crude humour is not always appropriate as Adam’s tale develops. However, a positive attitude can make a difference, even if in this case the odds of his friend’s survival are 50%. His mother,  played by Anjelica Huston, has an even harder time accepting the fact her son has Cancer. Already struggling with a husband who has Alzheimer’s, she tries to control Adam’s situation, only alienating him further with her overbearing attitude.

His girlfriend Rachel,played by Bryce Dallas Howard, provides a strange mix of support and betrayal in the film. She wants to separate the Adam she likes from the sickly, chemotherapy-needing one she leaves at the hospital: “I don’t want to mix that world with this world,” she tells him.  In comparison, one of his fellow Cancer patients receives full support from his wife something Adam envies when he is alone with only his dog, Skeletor, for company. Those around him come and go, but he comes to appreciate the support of some more than others and this is what helps him stay strong when not knowing what the future holds.

While the film is classed as a comedy drama, I’d be more inclined to have it as a full drama as the screenwriter, Will Reiser, loosely based the film on his own experience with cancer.  The plot never tries to be unpredictable or exciting; it is simply another interpretation of a touchy subject, and a film which seeks to shed interesting thoughts on both the negative and the positive responses to Cancer.