Film review | 50/50 – Finding the funny side of a cancer diagnosis

A comedy drama about a young man diagnosed with cancer, 50/50 attempts the delicate operation of wringing laughs and tears from the viewer – and largely pulls off the tricky feat.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the patient, Seattle public radio producer Adam Lerner, who discovers he has a rare form of spinal cancer that gives him only a halfway chance of survival. While his girlfriend, self-absorbed painter Rachael (Bryce Dallas-Howard) struggles to deal with his condition, his slobbish, boozy best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogan), proves much more supportive, as does novice psychotherapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick), even though she’s barely taken off her training wheels as a practitioner.

Inspired by screenwriter Will Reiser’s own perilous brush with cancer, 50/50 rings true in its depiction of Adam’s plight, and in the humour it finds in his situation. Gordon-Levitt’s uptight everyman hero fully earns our sympathy and Kendrick is superb as the rookie therapist, but the film suffers from an overly strong dose of Rogan’s trademark mix of crudity and mawkishness (patented in Knocked Up), which must surely be reaching its use-by date soon.

On general release from Friday 25th November.

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