Movie Mom

Movie Mom


50/50

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use
Profanity:Constant very strong and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Explicit sexual references, some very vulgar, and non-explicit situations
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, drug use
Violence/Scariness:Character has cancer and the movie deals frankly with the diagnosis and treatment
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:September 30, 2011

When Seth Rogen’s friend Will Reiser got a rare form of cancer at age 24, they bolstered their courage by imagining a movie that would be true to their experience.  The movies they knew about people with cancer had characters who were (1) older, (2) transformed into saintliness and transcendence and reconciliation, and (3) by the end of the movie — dead.  Reiser barely knew how to live as an independent adult.  While his contemporaries were worried about dating and figuring out their careers, he was forced to deal with dire, literally life and death decisions.

Resier recovered and wrote this screenplay and Rogen co-produced and played the character based on himself.  The result is a movie that captures the surreal nature of being seriously ill, the way you feel as though you appear to be on this planet but in reality you are living somewhere else, Planet Cancer, and the “normal” life around you is at the same time disconcerting and reassuring.  But this is also a movie filled with hope, and humor, and inspiration.  No one is transformed into saintliness or transcendence but there are lessons learned, losses borne, and hurdles overcome.

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The superb Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a 27-year-old who works for NPR.  We first see him on an early morning run, stopping at a red light even though there are no cars around for miles.  This is a guy who follows the rules.  And then what he thinks is a backache turns out to be a rare form of cancer, a tumor on his spine, which his doctor describes as “quite fascinating.”  He is still in the early stages of a relationship with Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), an artist.  “I have a drawer?  We’re getting so domestic.”

Rachael means well and even likes the idea of herself as a loyal girlfriend, but she also feels trapped by Adam’s illness.  Adam’s mother (Anjelica Houston) wants to help, but that threatens Adam’s still-fragile sense of independence.  Adam meets with a young grief counselor (Anna Kendrick as Katherine) who is just as new to counseling as he is to grieving.

Kyle (Rogen) is immature and squeamish, but it turns out that he is braver than he or Adam knew.  What he lacks in judgment and tact he makes up for in heart and candor.  When he hears that Adam’s odds are 50/50, he looks on the bright side with a metaphor drawn from his own priorities: “If you were a casino game, you’d have the best odds!” And then there’s priority number one — Kyle assures Adam that cancer is a real chick magnet.

I don’t know whether that which does not defeat you makes you stronger.  But that which does not defeat you does show you how strong you are, and how strong your relationships are, too.  Reiser’s insightful script and Gordon-Levitt’s sensitive performance make this one of the year’s most satisfying films.

 

Translation: Lead character is diagnosed with cancer, frank portrayal of treatment and reaction of the patient and his family and friends, very strong and crude language, explicit sexual references and non-explicit situations, drinking and drug use

Family discussion:  Who was the most helpful to Adam and why?  Does this movie make you think differently about serious illness?  What role did humor play in helping Adam cope? What did he learn from Katherine?

If you like this, try:  “God Said Ha,” “My Life Without Me,” and “Crazy Sexy Cancer”



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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pam

    I hope to see this — I’m looking forward to a non-sappy portrayal of someone with cancer.

    • Nell Minow

      I think you will like it, Pam. I’d love to hear what you think.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pam

    You’re right — I did enjoy this movie. My husband and I saw it Saturday night. I was caught off-guard, wishing I had a couple more tissues in my pocket — I hadn’t anticipated needing them at a Seth Rogan film. It was a moving film. I think I especially appreciated how particular the story was — it was not a general cancer story, it was about one guy’s experience.

    • Nell Minow

      I’m so glad you saw it, Pam — and I loved your comment. Thanks so much!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Gary

    My wife and I saw this yesterday. I’ve been going through chemotherapy since last early May, and have been looking forward to seeing this for about that long. I really enjoyed the movie, both for the humor and for the unspoken denial Gordon-Levitt’s character displayed, which certainly resonated with me. Unlike his character, though, my chemo has done just what it was supposed to do (though without benefit of macaroons with weed in them).

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you, Gary. No comment means as much as one from the person who has been there. Thanks for sharing your story and sending good thoughts for your continued recovery.

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