Cancer Bromance - Stefano Brucone
There is often a lot of fun to be had in reducing films down to a one sentence pitch, stripping them of their context and inviting people to judge them based on little more than ten words. Thus, Pretty Woman is the heart-warming story of a millionaire who has sex with a prostitute. Or Dirty Dancing, the tale of an ageing dance instructor who seduces an underage girl. With 50/50, the makers have really done it for us. It is a comedy about cancer.
Although it is by no means rare for Hollywood to deal with cancer, it is unusual for it to get such central billing. Usually it affects the people four or five names down the credits: the mother or the friend but rarely the main character. Given that we tend to see ourselves as the stars of our own lives, it is perhaps one of the reasons why 50/50 is an often uncomfortable viewing experience. The randomness and impartiality of cancer is all too evident.
Gordon-Levitt plays a young man in the prime of his life who is diagnosed with cancer and given the odds that make up the title of the film. Gordon-Levitt has a difficult task. His character is not entirely sympathetic and he goes through a wide range of emotions in response to his diagnosis. Gordon-Levitt is at his best when portraying the frustrated helplessness that he is often reduced to. His character is something of a control freak and as the film develops, his growing powerlessness begins to overwhelm him. This is particularly evident in one scene when he is being sedated in preparation for surgery. The sense of panic Gordon-Levitt is able to convey is painfully real and devastating to watch.
The weight of this dramatic tension is lessened by the presence of Seth Rogen, whose character is almost single-handedly responsible for the comedic elements. He plays his usual character, a lovable stoner, who is not afraid to realise the potential power cancer can have in attracting women. It is nicely played and is a well-studied observation of the ways in which men support one another, banter taking the place of long heart to hearts.
The film has a number of flaws. For a start, the characters on the periphery are often two dimensional, none more so than the doctor who delivers the diagnosis in a manner that stretches credulity. And the film shies away from some of the harder to take aspects of cancer.
However, this is a film that relies on performances and Rogen and Gordon-Levitt are both believable and ultimately, likeable. In the end, it is not so much a comedy about cancer but rather a bromance about cancer. Recommended.
Review published on the 31 March 2012 19:47
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