dir Jonathan Levine
scr Will Reiser
prd Evan Goldberg, Ben Karlin, Seth Rogen
with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall, Matt Frewer, Serge Houde, Andrew Airlie, Sugar Lynn Beard, Peter Kelamis, Laura Bertram
release US 30.Sep.11, UK 25.Nov.11
11/US Summit 1h39
Laugh it off: Gordon-Levitt and Rogen

kendrick howard huston
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
50/50 Films about cancer aren't generally this funny. And while this movie isn't a comedy, beyond its generous dose of realistic humour, it has a smart, personal script that dares to face a difficult situation head on. And the light tone makes it hugely involving.

Young journalist Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is shocked to discover that his sore back is actually a rare tumour with only a 50 percent survival rate. His girlfriend (Howard) promises to stick by him, best pal Kyle (Rogen) offers support, even as he uses Adam's illness to get girls, and Adam's mother (Huston) can't help but offer too much help. But he develops an awkward rapport with inexperienced therapist Katie (Kendrick) that actually does some good. And as his treatment sucks the life out of him, he finds two new friends in his fellow patients (Hall and Frewer).

The story is told through Adam's sparky, sardonic perspective. It's not that he's using humour as a defence mechanism; he's just a genuinely funny, observant person who slices through the usual niceties. His interaction with the goofier Kyle is often hilarious, but the best moments come when he and Katie clumsily try to figure out their roles as patient and doctor, or maybe friends. Meanwhile, the plot isn't afraid to throw in surprising twists that redefine characters and push Adam in difficult directions.

As a result, the filmmakers earn every moment of sentimentality and emotion while keeping us laughing at the jagged honesty of the characters. Gordon-Levitt is terrific as a complex guy who's pretty sure he knows how he feels and is surprised to discover that maybe he has something to learn about himself. His scenes with Rogen are riotous and sometimes surprisingly touching, and he has terrific chemistry with Kendrick and Huston, both of whom are excellent in roles that could easily have been caricatures.

All of this is held together beautifully by Levine's relaxed direction and Reiser's astute script, which is based on his own experience. It's rare to see a film that can make such a wide range of relationships this believable, so the film never feels remotely preachy, even though it is constantly giving us insight into the way we treat people around us who are ill.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs 13.Sep.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall