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50/50

[Rating: 3/5]

I saw the trailer for “50/50″ and thought, “Really? A comedy about cancer? ”   I mean, isn’t that the standard way to say something not funny at all, to say it’s “as funny as cancer?”   Is it even possible to make cancer funny?  And are the makers of this film brave/stupid enough to try?

Well, not really.  Turns out that trailer was pretty deceptive; “50/50″ isn’t half as funny as it makes it look.  That’s not altogether a bad thing.  (Actually, I’m not sure it’s a bad thing at all.)  Instead of a goofy stoner comedy — the kind of thing you’d expect Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Leavitt–this film is heartfelt, warm, and emotional.  Yeah, it’s a tearjerker.  You’ll be crying before you finish it.  You will.

So just enter the theater with that expectation.  Sometimes a good cry is exactly what you need, and, aside from certain moments in certain Pixar films, a good cry at the movies has been hard to come by lately.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is a young, somewhat anal-retentive NPR documentarian who contracts a weird kind of cancer in his back that will probably kill him.   Seth Rogen is his best friend, which stretches believability a bit; he’s sloppy and goofy and mostly interested in getting laid.  He also works at NPR, mysteriously.   This is all based on a true story penned by Will Reiser, and from what I hear, Rogen and Reiser are close, so Rogen’s actually playing himself in the film.  Which is wierd, because I generally feel like Rogen is almost always playing himself in his films; if in real life he is actually something other than a slacker/stoner who alternates between talking too much and hiding how smart he actually is lest his slacker/stoner friends thinks he’s a nerd, I’ll be terribly shocked.  I might have a heart attack.  I guess as long as he’s not actually that guy he playes in “Observe in Report,” it’s all okay.

Gordon-Leavitt also has a terrible girlfriend, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who is pretty to look at but can’t act much, and a therapist/love interest in Anna Kendrick, who isn’t all that pretty to look at (no matter how low-cut her dresses) but can invest a frown/grimace with worlds of emotion.  Angelica Huston is his worried/over-protective mom; all of these supporting people struggle to figure out how to support their cancer-ridden friend, who struggles to accept their support.

It’s all pretty heartfelt, and director Jonathan Levine does a more than decent job of balancing the moments of humor with the pathos and sentimentality.  It all builds to a real tearjerker of a scene, and I’m not going to tell you whether it ends well or sadly.   You’ll have to see for yourself.

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