Sunday, October 09, 2011

"50/50" (2011) - Movie Review

“50/50” is one of those films that has several moments of good film but fails to lift itself beyond what it set forth for. Not because of bad direction or unconvincing performance but it is just what it is. Some films are like that and sometimes you wonder why it did not become a better film than the goodness it already attained. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has risen to take varied roles and go with the flow. He has been noticed, picked up and has established himself as an actor having an eye for better film makers including his very own website that collages several creative minds. Here he plays as the protagonist diagnosed with cancer and waiting for the time to wrap up his time.

Levitt is Adam, a young man budding into the life of regular events of having a needy girl friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and an annoying but best friend (Seth Rogen). He has morning runs, drive, coffee and work. A pain in his back sends him for tests where he is delivered the news with coldness and detachment from his doctor. The gravity of this situation does not translate well to me. May be due to the awareness of the plot, I was more interested in what he is going to do next than the news itself but it is director’s responsibility to not make that assumption and make it a moment the audience have not seen. May be this is where it dented the rest of the film.

Adam’s girl friend Rachael is nothing but unlikable. She is given an out by Adam after the news but who would get out when they are in that situation? Rachael begins to drive him to the clinic and distance him at the same time. While Adam and Rachael did not really have a good thing going before the news, the film goes towards the change in moods but gives up quite easily as Adam’s best buddy played by Seth Rogen as Kyle finds her cheating. Though we know that is exactly was going to happen as soon as you see Anna Kendrick as the novice therapist Katie for Adam. They are supposed to be together as per the screenplay right from the get go.

“50/50” suffers from emotional predictability despite its genuineness on the screen. Every one is trying around Adam to adjust to his situation in the awkward way and Adam is trying to accept his reality. What can you tell when a person is a walking funeral? Despite their success in the treatment, whenever someone hears cancer, that is that. Dying becomes so close and extremely real. Especially when a life fully not lived. Here is Adam a late twenties guy finding the things that might question or un-question his meaning of existence and he does not even get a chance to see those.

Seth Rogen plays Adam’s friend with fine nuance I would not have expected from the comedian. He is caring but he wants what he thinks is best for his buddy than Adam himself. Soon enough he becomes to use this sickness to get girls to date. You wonder throughout the film why Adam is even friends with Kyle but you also realize they are best friends despite what you see on the screen. People are like that and we see those in Kyle and Adam.

Then there is Angelica Houston as Adam’s mom taking care of her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. She is hysterical and frantic but which mother would not be when they know their kid has days to live? Houston’s character is typical mom and annoying but we also see her side as Kendrick’s Katie points out the obvious to Adam. Talking Katie and Adam, their moments are nice, genuine and unusually comfortable given their awkward situation. Yet in the end when things fall in place, it loses it.

I think too many things fall in place too quickly in “50/50”. There are lovely characters and easeful moments. Take it through the chemo sessions with Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer or the emotional moments with Angelica Houston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the film has heart and soul. It carries itself through but this reviewer while liked the film did not go all way in pouring his heart.

In Indian films, cancer was always used as this haphazard tool for bringing sympathy from the audience to the central character. No one can be cold seeing a good looking person puke blood. Over the years I have seen personally and heard about the cold brutality of this disease, it does not let its victims continue the conscious life the films portray and also the nature of its brutal painful treatments and unimaginably hurt to watch someone go through it. Most films do not have that part except occasional chemotherapy effects of puking and weight loss but the physical pain of it is sparsely dealt as it would affect the flow of the story line. Yes that is one of those details in this scenario to be negated for the ease of moving on the film. “50/50” deals those with soft hands as needed as the pain is known and the loss is felt. I wish it had something more and if it means anything to you, do tell me.

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