Did you hear the joke about the guy who went to a doctor for back pain complaint, and found out that he has cancer?... No? Me neither; which is to say that writer Will Reiser, who’s own personal life experience inspired the story, and director Jonathan Levine, manage to handle the topic with humor but not without proper seriousness.
The plot suffers from a slow start and some limping moments here and there, but what Levine manages to do successfully with a well casted group of actors, led by an excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and a memorable Anjelica Huston, is to create credibility and lots of humanity. We start to like and care for the Gordon-Levitt low-key character, his sympathetic straight face, humbleness, and even his ticks for organizing and cleaning. And much like the metaphor in the film, just when we think this volcano will never erupt, it does.
50/50 is not the first film to tackle terminal illness with comedy. Judd Apatow’s 2009 Funny People, starting Adam Sandler and... Seth Rogen, comes to mind. Yet while with Funny People the stakes were much higher (career, wife), 50/50 comes off much stronger for authenticity. A perfect film is it not, but definitely a worthy one.