5050 joseph gordon levitt seth rogen


Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3.5
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
September 29, 2011

Part of me doesn't even want to tell you that 50/50 is a comedy about a guy with cancer. Chances are you'll groan and stop reading. That would be a mistake, because 50/50 is not infected with the usual TV tear-jerking and bogus uplift. It's actually hilarious, heartfelt and acted with such no-bull audacity that you'll hate yourself for just thinking you'd hate it.

OK, I've got one more groaner hurdle. 50/50 is inspired by a true story, "inspired" usually translating into an excuse to make shit up. Not here. Will Reiser, who wrote the screenplay, really was diagnosed with a malignant spinal tumor. Since he wrote the script, you probably surmised he didn't die. And Seth Rogen, who plays Reiser's friend in the movie, really is Reiser's friend. Rogen and his Superbad partner Evan Goldberg helped get the movie produced. I'm guessing the names have been changed to protect some of the raunchier jokes.

That's OK by me – 50/50 is better than OK, it's some kind of miracle considering the traps that could have mangled it. The stellar Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam (the Will character), a producer at NPR in Seattle, and he gives one of the best performances of the year, taking Adam on the roller coaster from diagnosis to dread and defiance without making a false move. And Rogen plays Kyle (the Seth character) with his signature bawdy wit laced with touching gravity. Gordon-Levitt and Rogen are a dream team, even when the dream turns into a nightmare. Cheers to director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) for giving the film a raw, ragged look that deepens his attempts to keep it real. Gordon-Levitt shaved his own head in the scene where Adam decides to cut off his hair before chemo does the job. I can't speak to whether Gordon-Levitt participated in the scene in which Kyle trims Adam's balls. But no rowdy opportunity is missed, especially with Adam and two fellow patients (Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer).

More delicate feelings spring up between Adam and Katherine (a wonderful Anna Ken­drick), his painfully inexperienced therapist. But for full-throttle emotion, hold on for a superb Anjelica Huston as Adam's take-charge mother, coping with a son who'd rather ignore her and a husband facing dementia. At every point when you expect the story to tumble over into sitcom/soap-opera excess, 50/50 pulls back and sides with unvarnished truth. A movie handled with this kind of care is a rare gift. Refusing to hide from pain or bow to it, 50/50 makes its own rules. It'll get to you.

Video: September's Worst Movies Get Tossed in the Scum Bucket
Peter Travers' Fall Movie Preview

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Hungry Like the Wolf”

    Duran Duran | 1982

    This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

    More Song Stories entries »