When you hear the term ‘cancer film’ you can’t help but fill with trepidation. Your mind shoots to the image of a not-so-heartbreaking romance film where the people are oh so in love that all you do is feel bitter and resentful of their affection as well as wishing their nauseating cliché of a film would stop and you actually end up standing and applauding when one of them dies in a tear heavy finale that actually makes you question whether life is worth living, because if people think shit like this is good, it clearly isn’t as the world has become over populated with idiots.
Either that or the idea of a religious man getting cancer, losing his faith in god and slowly rehabilitating it in a series of moody grey set pieces and talks with monks that makes you think that if there was a god he wouldn’t subject you to this self indulgent, depressing shit and you end up missing the message the film was trying to put out. (I can’t title these films exactly, but I’m sure they’re out there. You’re on tumblr; piss away two hours reblogging moody pictures from these kind of films and find it out for me, you technological clichés.)
Refreshingly though, 50/50 is absolutely nothing like this. It is, from start to finish, an incredible movie that goes up there with my favourite films of all time.
It’s something I could have told you before the film started, as the excellent trailer did little but highlight what a brilliant film this is going to be and also Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in it. Who has never done a bad film; even GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra had a camp, explosion heavy and slightly sado-masochistic charm (all that leather….All that leather.) And he does nothing but excel here, highlighting how truly gifted an actor he is by presenting an emotionally vulnerable, bitter, resentful and mournfully sad Adam Lerner, the character diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given a 50/50 chance of survival.
Although this sounds like a film which has all the potential to be something that makes middle aged women cry for 2 hours and make everyone else question whether life is worth living at all. It is brilliantly anchored by the lead, and its tremendous supporting cast. All funny; all emotionally devastating at the same time. A truer depiction of real life emotion I don’t think I have ever seen in a film.
From Angelica Huston’s barely-coping mother, Anna Kendrick’s deliriously sweet psychiatrist and Seth Rogen’s stoner best friend; which brings the most mature and capable performance of his career. If he and JGL aren’t up for Golden Globes it will be a stupid omission which may push me to the extent of swimming to America, walking to the Golden Globe headquarters (it shouldn’t be difficult to locate, a huge black building made out of the bones of people who couldn’t afford to go the cinema and were therefore crushed as they couldn’t give to the huge corporate machine. It’s right next to the Oscars HQ, which is exactly the same, but this one actually has Sauron’s eye on it) and expressing my displeasure in a pleasant conversation with the secretary at the front desk. (Did that go the way you think it was going to go? Nope.)
These supporting characters are brilliant and funny, but it is Levitt’s show; bringing out a performance of such believable sorrow, anger and heartbreak that not one person in the cinema wasn’t crying. Except me. I’m a man. Therefore I don’t cry. There had just been a convenient pigeon that flew into my eye and made my eyes water profusely for the final 25 minutes; go on, try and prove me wrong. I dare you.
He balances this with a comically touching performance which expresses the feelings all the audience can’t help but feel sympathy for. Kudos goes to the writer, Will Reiser, for who this film is semi-autobiographical, for really putting the thoughts and fears of a barely living cancer patient out there for all us to see. It’s shocking and emotionally draining in equal measure.
Although I may make this sound like a film which will only drive you to escapist heroin abuse as you slip on the tears and blood of those who already lost the will to carry on. It isn’t in the slightest; the genuine, natural humour keeps you blissfully happy throughout until it reaches its heart wrenching final act just before the immensely satisfying ending; which doesn’t just leave you content. It leaves you with a massive smile on your face as you see what this person went through, how it changed them and what is yet to come.
All in all; this film is beautiful. Real, genuine and believable and should surely get awards recognition, definitely at the Golden Globes if not the Oscars, which is should. After all Juno won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. JUNO?! Seriously?!?!
There aren’t enough awards to give this film though, one that is nothing short of perfect.