50/50 TELLS THE STORY of Adam (played perfectly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a seemingly healthy 27-year-old who gets diagnosed with cancer. His odds: 50/50. On his team: a sucky girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), an overbearing mom (Anjelica Huston), a newbie therapist (Anna Kendrick), and his stoner BFF, Kyle, who has deep supplies of both blowjob jokes and weed. (Kyle is played by Seth Rogen. Of course Kyle is played by Seth Rogen.)
While Adam deals with chemo, nausea, and, you know, his own mortality and stuff, everybody else tries to figure out how the hell to be there for him, while also stomaching their own fear. The balance between laughs and not-laughs is extremely well done; as a lady who uses fart and vagina jokes to muddle through serious things, I was impressed.
Rogen, whose stoner shtick has gotten tired, truly steps up to the plate in this movie—oddly, it's Kyle's attempts to use his friend's cancer to get laid that give 50/50 a special sweetness and humor that other cancer movies lack. It turns out that dick jokes do make things more palatable—they balance out the dim misery of hospital lights. And I never thought that a knife-throwing montage could capture such tenderness in male friendships.
Now here's a disclaimer: My father died of cancer last year. It's hard to bring up the other things that make this movie special without talking about my own family's experience. My dad was a funny, funny man, and we all laughed a lot through those last few days in the hospital. We had to—there would've been no way to get through the heart-wrenching, miserable experience of watching him die without some dumb jokes and sweet stories. And 50/50? It totally gets that.
The trailer is calling this movie a comedy, which it technically is—but cancer can't not be heavy. You might cry, but you'll also laugh. And then you'll also probably need a big cocktail when you get home.