Review: “50/50” – Susan Granger

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What are the odds of this poignant serio-comedy succeeding? Just about the same as the survival odds that 27 year-old Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) faces when he’s diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Sensitive, seemingly healthy Adam works as an NPR producer and regularly jogs around his hometown of Seattle. But, occasionally, his back aches and he suffers night sweats – which leads him to seek medical care. When an oncologist coldly informs him that a large, malignant tumor is growing along his spine, scared Adam’s reaction is entirely plausible: “I’m going to throw up,” he says.

Sharing Adam’s shock, dread and bewilderment are his raunchy buddy, Kyle (Seth Rogen); his sexy, self-absorbed artist girl-friend, Rachael (Bruce Dallas-Howard); and his anxious mother (Anjelica Huston), who is caring for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father (Serge Houde). Predictably, they each react differently, creating individually frustrating subplots. So Adam’s greatest support comes from Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick), the earnest 24 year-old novice psycho-therapist assigned to his case.

Director Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”) elicits engaging, endearing performances from the entire ensemble, including the cranky curmudgeons he meets at his first chemotherapy session who get him high on macaroons baked with medical marijuana. But most memorable is the genuine friendship – or loyal bromance, as it’s called nowadays – between Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“500 Days of Summer,” “Inception”) and Seth Rogen (“The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” “Funny People”).

And now for the rest of the story…when screenwriter Will Reiser was diagnosed with spinal cancer in 2005, his real-life buddies Seth Rogen and producer Evan Goldberg urged him to keep a journal and write a script about how people in their ‘20s deal with the concept of mortality, a crisis they’ve never confronted before. Six years in remission, Reiser discovered that writing forced him to confront and process all the painful memories. Many in the audience may have the same reaction. Since my first husband died of cancer, I know I did.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “50/50” scores an emotionally cathartic 8, ending on a convincingly upbeat note.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.