Agenda Movie Club: 50/50


Jonathan Levine


I may be imagining this, but when this came out, I somehow remember people talking about how 50/50 figured out a way to “make cancer funny.” I don’t think this is quite right– the cancer still is very unfunny, it’s just that there are some funny things going on around it. The cancer is still awful.

The funny is very funny. Mostly thanks to Seth Rogen. You can dislike the guy if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I remember seeing him in “Freaks and Geeks” and wondering what in the world was up with that guy (why is he talking that way?). He has a style that is distinct and a sense of timing that seems spontaneous (can it be?). I like him. He goes blue really well.

I also like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I kind of felt like he didn’t quite get there, here. He can be excellent, but, for me, he was the least memorable part of this movie. Tough role to play.

I also didn’t love them injecting the love interest storyline with Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick’s therapist. It felt tossed in (Amy called it instantly) and too Hollywood. I realize this is a semi-autobiographical story, so maybe the screenwriter really did fall for his therapist, but just because something happened in real life doesn’t mean it should be in a movie (we must have learned that by now). I doubt it really happened, though. Felt more like, “where’s the girl? We need a girl!”

Also, that’s the most you’re ever going to see me complain about Anna Kendrick in anything. She’s fantastic.

These are small problems. I sometimes make it sound like my complaints are bigger than they really are. This is a funny, touching movie, and I liked it a lot. It was great to see Matt Frewer, and also Philip Baker Hall, who is actually finally starting to look a little older after looking the same age (still old, but slightly less old) for a very long time. Anjelica Huston has become very, very good at playing a mother (between this and Darjeeling Limited). Cancer must be a very hard thing to make a movie about, and especially a movie that’s not schmaltzy, and 50/50 threads that needle well.

Also, they work for a public radio station. Natch. Hippies.

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5 Responses to Agenda Movie Club: 50/50

  1. Unka Joe says:

    I was surprised that such an average movie could be made about cancer. I can tell the word you were looking for all through your review was “average.” This was an average movie with average performances from mostly good-to-average journeyman movie actors. But I liked this movie too!

  2. Fletch says:

    Oh, I think probably if we watched every movie and then quantified our feelings about each movie and then compared those quantities we’d find that this is definitely “above average.” But I take your point, and I’m not going to argue too hard about that. I think the real reasons to see this movie are Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick. Reasonable people can disagree about the former (depending on tastes) but not the latter.

  3. Unka Joe says:

    I love them both, no question. I’m thinking more that the story and characterizations were average. Or a little above average. Raymond Chandler said that the reason detective fiction is not considered great literature is because the average novel is never published but the average detective novel is always published. I give you that for free because I am a full-service uncle.

    • Fletch says:

      I think we’re mostly in agreement. People wonder why critics are always praising foreign films, and the reason is that we only get the best foreign films here. We don’t get to see the mediocre ones (although that’s changing, and is being reflected in the reviews). We could probably talk about this for a while. We should take a trip up north to see you and talk about this for a while.

  4. Unka Joe says:

    By the way, I have seen all the Twilight movies. Yeah, that’s right.

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