Very generally, this is an indie film about a 27-year-old guy who unceremoniously finds out he has cancer. As you could probably ascertain from the title, his chances of survival are 50%. In some ways, the plotline is quite ordinary: he's a pretty average guy, leading a pretty average life, who is one day smacked in the face with a disease. But it's the examination of what becomes one's every day life when dealing with this illness that etched this sweet, restrained film into my heart.
Many of y'all may recall from past blogs that I lost my dear mama to cancer last year. While I can't imagine what it's like to be the patient, I learned a lot from battling through it with my best friend. We were very honest with each other and spoke quite candidly about how she felt and what she believed, and I was fortunate enough to be with her for almost all of her appointments/treatments. It's a unique world, and believe it or not, it can be a beautiful one.
50/50 skillfully captured this underlying beauty via the relationships Adam (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt...or as the boyfriend calls him, "Jordan Love-Hewitt") forges with some of the older fellows with whom he receives chemo. Those candid chats, the ribbing, the melding of one's identity with one's disease (introductions consist of name and diagnosis), the support...it's all right on.
Even in the midst of debilitating chemotherapy treatments, I witnessed some of the most joyful, funny, sincere expressions of human behavior. Not to be poster children, not to give cancer a prettier face, but because these were extraordinary people battling a hell of a beast and they weren't about to let illness change who they were. Love is given more freely and there's no need for formalities. Lost all your hair? Rock the cue ball; it's too dang hot for a hat/wig. Sweating like a fiend? No one is above being fanned with a radiation info pamphlet.
(Not surprising, writer Will Reiser truly battled cancer, and at an even younger age. And Seth Rogen is his real-life friend, God help him. Kidding!)
Another insightful element of this film is how Reiser captured the ways in which cancer patients often find themselves taking care of everyone around them. It's not a bad thing, per se, and has nothing to do with loved ones being selfish. It just happens. No one knows what to do or say, so it's not uncommon for the one who is sick to be the same person who is comforting those who feel helpless. They minimize and simplify, make the best of the situation and learn to rattle off their current condition with little more emotion than they'd recite the alphabet. It becomes fairly matter-of-fact when it's inevitably the center of every conversation you have. Rare are the moments when the one fighting can honestly confess, "I'm scared. This sucks. I feel like crap and I just want it to be over. Whatever that means." (A candid session with Adam's adorable therapist in the film, played by Anna Kendrick, reveals this very attitude.)
We've all been touched by cancer. Some more than others, sure. But at the center of this story is an examination of the challenges that life will bring your way. Not can, will. The people in your life--in all their awkward, uncertain, wrong-thing-at-the-wrong-time-sayin' glory--are as vital to your story as anything.
Let me know what y'all think of the film if/when you see it. I recommend you do.