Thursday, August 25, 2011

Terminal Review - "50/50" is Cancerifically Good

Humor that metastasizes!

 I can guarantee you that "cancer comedy" as a descriptive term is rarely used in cinema these days. From a studio marketer's perspective: what's the point of even attempting one when you could churn out another half-baked sequel to a known property? It's like "cancer" has become this monster that looms in the human psyche enough to make even broaching the subject the kiss of death.

As one of the leading causes of mortality in the U.S., it would be virtually impossible for someone to not be affected by some form of cancer. You can't just do a movie on "cancer," because everyone has had a cancer experience sometime in their life; what that means is that if you are going to do it, you better do it right because audiences will see past the bullshit.

"Doing it right" is precisely why 50/50  works, because it's straight from the pen of the young screenwriter and cancer survivor, Will Resier. It's his story.

I attended the promo-screening for 50/50  at Alamo South last night, and the guest speaker was the man himself, Resier. What struck me about him is not only how brilliant the dude is for synthesizing his experiences as a cancer patient and survivor into 50/50 , but just how fucking young  he is.

Really, his youth is the reason that everyone should see this movie. He talked a lot about being a young cancer patient in a ward where he was the only one of his generation - where everyone else was at least 60+ years old. Yet, even being so generationally isolated, his bridges the gap with some old dudes as they all scarf down weed cookies and smoke the medicinal spliff. This movie is important because it can be that film that could not only introduce younger people to consequences of the disease, but also to a state of universal empathy that's really eye-opening. Parents and kids should see this together, because there are those poignant moments that really capture how those walls between generations are built and then broken down.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Resier's alter-ego, Adam. After watching the movie and then seeing Resier in-person, it was eery how well Gordon captured Adam and his affect. The character arc for Adam in the film is powerful because he is like a volcano, trying to remain stoic and steadfast for other people while all his fears and anxieties about the disease churn under the surface.

As much as the film is about Adam and his personal struggle, it's also as much about those other people in Adam's life and how they react to the disease: be it his significant other Rachel, played by Bryce Dallas-Howard, his mother played by Anjelica Houston, or his best friend Kyle played by Seth Rogen. They way they "handle" Adam and his disease is often touching and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Oh, and fucking hilarious.

It might be a little far into a review to point out that this movie is actually a comedy. How could it not be with Seth Rogen as the best friend? Yet, Seth Rogen is  Will Resier's best friend, and the producer of the movie that wanted Will to write this story and get it out there. As a result, this is probably the best thing Rogen has ever done, comedy or otherwise, as he basically is playing himself true to life and how he dealt with his friend's prognosis.

The comedy in this film is really what amplifies the emotional beats, as every laugh is painted in sharp relief with the notion that Adam might not make it. Cancer is not joke, but Rogen as Kyle tries to keep a smile on his friend's face, and the way the film blends the laughs with the cries makes it transcendent.

Look for it when it comes out September 30th.


No comments:

Post a Comment