Iris Out: “50/50”

Natalie Schermer

I always find that I like movies better when I know practically nothing about them going in. Trailers can be exciting, sure, but recently I feel like I’ll watch a preview, go see the movie, and not laugh once because I’d already seen the trailer.

Luckily, when I’m at school, there aren’t any commercials to spoil me. When my friend informed me that she was dragging me to go see “50/50” with her, I bit back my instinctive “What’s it about?” before I could spoil it for myself.

Arriving at the theater, I knew nothing about the film except that it starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and had something to do with cancer.

“50/50” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a 20-something who works in radio and is considering getting more serious with his artist girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). Adam’s a normal guy.

He spends most of his time with Rachael or his high school best friend, Kyle (Seth Rogen), avoids returning the calls of his nagging mother, and tries to stay on the good side of his boss at work. Everything changes, though when he goes to the doctor to try and figure out the source of his recurring back pain — and finds out he has a rare type of cancer with a 50 percent survival rate.

The rest of the movie chronicles how he deals with this new phase of his life, telling his friends and family, as well as starting his chemotherapy and required therapist sessions.

The plot is solid — it has to be for a movie treating a subject like cancer to succeed. However, what really made the film were the actors: specifically, Gordon-Levitt and Rogen.

The relationship between Adam and Kyle is one of the main aspects of the film and the two actors play off each other extremely well. Rogen has a reputation for crass, over-the-top humor, but in “50/50” he tones it down a bit while at the same time maintaining that Seth Rogen-quality. He manages to stay just below the line of too much, continually pushing the boundaries and producing laughs while keeping his character multi-dimensional.

With his portrayal of Adam, Gordon-Levitt covered all the bases. He’s sweet, yet flawed; funny, yet serious; and he plays the funny stuff just as well as he does the emotional scenes.

“50/50” is a movie about cancer — but for a movie about cancer, I laughed way more than I thought possible. It’s a perfect balance between the good and the bad, showing a guy who keeps living despite his diagnosis.

It doesn’t shy away from the sad stuff, though: Relationships, death and loss are all addressed at some point. The strength of “50/50,” though, was this juxtaposition of happy and sad, tears and laughter.

The whole audience, at one point, silent in the midst of an extremely serious part of the film, burst out laughing. So if you’re avoiding “50/50” because it’s about cancer, don’t: it’s about a lot more than that and will definitely surprise you.