Who is this movie aimed at?
50/50 is a film which has been toting itself as a personal film about cancer that tries to inject as much humour into it as it can to give it some levity. Some may think that this is an offensive concept, but the execution of this half-comedy, half-drama gives way to a mature and finely crafted story.
Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, leads a normal life in his mid 30s until he discovers that he has a rare form of cancer. The title of the film comes from the odds that the doctor gives Adam as to his survival. The majority of the film follows how this news changes his routine and how his it affects friendships with his best friend (Seth Rogen), his parents and his girlfriend. The relationships we have with others in difficult times is the focus of this movie. All of the interactions amongst the characters are well grounded and naturalistic. This creates a strong core, and so the film becomes incredibly effective emotionally. 50/50 does start out with some comedy, but just like Adam, the film matures by the end and sheds much of the comedy in favour of down to earth emotions and a few light moments to offset the drama.
Despite the advertising, this is primarily a drama with only a little comedy on the side, not 50/50. Which is a wise choice to form a stronger film. The problem however, is the type of comedy, which can be described as 'Seth Rogen Comedy'. He has two styles which are both evident here. The first is his off-hand natural comments that add brief smiles to real situations, and this works well here. The second is his raunchy, stoner/dirty jokes which were funny and appropriate in The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but here it just doesn't fit. It's not making fun of cancer or offensive, but it is out of place. This type of humour feels forcefully injected in order for the film to appeal to a younger crowd despite the drama setting.
There are other elements that seem forced like Seth Rogen's character turn at the end. But most notably, Adam's father is depicted as having Alzheimer's which seems unnecessary for the story and feels manipulative. But all movies about life-threatening diseases like cancer (Terms of Endearment) can feel manipulative because that's what movies do, they trick you into caring for a character you've only known for an hour and a half. I'm just thankful that this film doesn't have too many of these forced moments, and relies on believable natural reactions instead. If you’re going to make a sentimental film, this is the way to go: you start with an enjoyable light film until we've developed enough time with the characters, then you are entitled to drive it home with a hard-hitting third act.
By the end, this is a wonderfully moving mature film about a young man diagnosed with cancer. It has new things to say about the topic that previous overly sentimental films skipped over. It's only problem is the sometimes raunchy 14A comedy which will divide audiences between those who want a comedy and are stuck with a drama, and those who want a drama and are stuck with some off-putting humour. If you are like me and can handle this humour and be mature enough to be invested in the story, you will love this touching film . 50/50 is #445 out of the 1619 movies I've seen.