Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—50/50 (2011) ***

R, 100 min.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Serge Houde, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

It’s funny. Before cancer touches you, it’s just some form of background noise. You don’t like it, and you feel for those whom it has touched, but it’s never a constant. Once it’s touched you—and there are few it hasn’t—it seems to show up everywhere. Of course, a movie about a cancer survivor isn’t really a place you wouldn’t expect it, but everything within that movie has more meaning than it would otherwise.

The somewhat autobiographical “50/50” starts out missing some pieces. Perhaps since the filmmakers were so familiar with their story, Will Reiser writes from experience and really is best friends with the movie’s star Seth Rogen, they don’t realize they’re missing some introductory movements. But, once the film finds it’s footing, it becomes a good depiction of some of the absurdities that must be faced by the cancer patient.

I can imagine a very similar film being made about the family members of a victim of the disease. Much of the film’s comedy comes from the strange effect the ailment has on those people surrounding the victim and their families. It as if everyone comes down with cancer, not just the patient. Everyone has advice to give or a story to tell. Nobody really knows how to act or what to say. In many ways, it’s all very comical. The filmmakers here find a good balance with that comedy and the real emotional weight that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

I’d like to also make note of the actor Matt Frewer. He plays one of the cancer patients with which the lead takes chemotherapy. Frewer is best known as the star of that 80s oddity television show “Max Headroom”. Recently I’ve seen Frewer in a great deal of small roles and he is an excellent example of an underrated actor. His delivery is always so natural. Despite never seeming to force anything, he always seems to bring something extra to ordinary roles. I’d really like to see him in more movies and television programs.

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