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50/50, the Movie – My Review

Ever since the September 30th release date of the new “cancer movie” 50/50, I’ve been wanting to see it. Hearing mostly good things about it made me want to see it even more.

A week or so ago, hubby and I finally got it worked into our schedule, but not before hubby had asked me more than a few times, “Are you sure you really want to see this movie?” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to protect me, or if he was worried about what my reaction might be and was protecting himself? Just kidding.

When we did arrive at the theater and got settled into our seats with our popcorn, (incidentally, I wondered if it was OK to eat popcorn during a cancer movie… no one else seemed to be) again hubby voiced his concern by saying, “Now remember, it’s just a movie; go with it and try to enjoy it.”

I realized hubby was indeed a bit worried about what my reaction might be. I wasn’t sure if he was worried I might start sobbing uncontrollably, disagree with something or maybe even walk out. His obvious concern was another reminder to me that living with someone who has or has had cancer isn’t easy even when doing something as innocent as watching a movie;  reminder lesson there.

Before the movie started rolling, we both looked around the theater and scoped out the people who were attending. There seemed to be about an equal number of men and women covering a wide age range. There were no children which was a good thing. This was not a movie for kids.

“Do you think everyone in here has had cancer or has known someone who has?” Hubby asked me. Probably, we decided. Who doesn’t know someone affected by cancer? Sad but true.

Now about the movie…

50/50 is billed as a comedy, but it is filled with many serious moments that were portrayed with honesty and humanity without being emotionally over the top for a cancer movie.

The plot of this movie revolves around Adam (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old young man experiencing unexplained back pain. He finally decides to see a doctor, gets checked out and gets the diagnosis no one ever wants to get – he has cancer. The movie’s title comes from Adam doing research online and learning people with his type of cancer have a 50/50 chance of survival.

A couple of scenes in the movie stood out to me. One was when Adam heard the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”  He was, of course, stunned by this news and all things instantly became literally blurry for him and the cameras actually blurred the picture for us momentarily as well, which was an effective way to make a point. The scenes when Adam told his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), best friend (Seth Rogen) and mother (Angelica Houston) were also well done with a nice mix of humor and seriousness.

My favorite scene and the one I related to most, was the one when he decided to shave his head during chemo and asked his best friend to help. There was an interesting discussion about the shaver they used which really made me chuckle because, well, hubby and I shaved my hair off with, umm, the shaver we use on our dog. Should I be admitting that? Maybe not…

Another especially poignant scene for me was when Adam had a major meltdown near the end of the movie as he was facing a very serious surgery; totally got that. I’ve had my share of meltdowns.

A few things were sort of “movie-ish” and predictable, like the break up with his girlfriend. Still, this made a very important point. Their relationship was troubled before cancer, so it didn’t stand a chance of surviving. No need to say more.

Also, watching Adam slowly fall for his therapist (Anna Kendrick) seemed a bit contrived, but you ended up liking her so much as the movie unfolded, you wanted them to get together so you didn’t care, or at least I didn’t.

One of the movie’s most important messages is that young people can and do get cancer and that fact alone presents a whole set of unique age-related problems. Another important message is that cancer is very lonely even if you have a great support system. There were moments in the movie when I just wanted to hug Adam his character was played so darn convincingly. Another more subtle point that came across to me was cancer doesn’t give you a free pass to be a jerk, and Adam was being just that in regard to his mother, but they did resolve this by movie’s end thanks to the therapist.

Summing things up, overall hubby and I really enjoyed this movie and thought it was tastefully done. In my opinion, it succeeded at intertwining drama and comedy, which is no small feat especially when dealing with a serious topic like cancer.

I would recommend this movie, even if you haven’t been directly affected by cancer.

Was it perfect? No.

It was still a movie and having cancer sure as heck is like no movie.

Have you seen 50/50 or do you plan to?

Do you have a favorite “serious illness” movie?



Lori Hope

Saturday 26th of November 2011

Finally got around to reading this, Nancy. Good review. Still uncertain about whether to recommend it. When I saw it the second time, well, it stayed around my psyche and heart for a while. But in order to recommend it to those who haven't had cancer (or been a cancer caregiver), one has to have seen it. I was moved by the same scenes...though was very upset that the film overstepped the boundaries and ethics of the therapist/patient relationship. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I've been sick with the flu...making me appreciate how healthy I've been all year, except of course for cancer, LOL (kind of...) XO, Lori


Monday 28th of November 2011

Lori, I know what you mean about the therapist/patient relationship thing. I felt the same way, but figured it was just a movie. And they did wait to pursue the relationship until his sessions were finished. Thank goodness for that. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving too, Lori. Mine was quiet, but enjoyable. Thanks for commenting. Hope you are feeling better.

Beth L. Gainer

Thursday 3rd of November 2011

Hi Nancy,

For some reason, I never could watch serious-illness movies, even before I had cancer. It's so much easier to watch a violent movie where people are gunned down quickly than see a movie where people are dealing with a life-threatening illness.

I couldn't deal with "Terms of Endearment," for example.

I'm sure 50/50 is a good movie, but for my own sanity, I'm skipping it.

Thank you for providing such a great review of it. It helps me live vicariously through your viewing.


Thursday 3rd of November 2011

Beth, I uderstand your reluctance. I remember "Terms of Endearment" being pretty emotional too. Thanks for saying you liked my review. Have you had your daughter to any movies yet? Movie going with her will be loads of fun; you'll love it.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2011

I will have to check it out! I'm glad that it's somewhat of a comedy. I can't handle overly dramatic, serious and emotional movies sometimes.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2011

Lindsay, Yes, do check it out. It was funny even though the topic was very serious. And it was about people your age, so you should definitely see it if you get a chance. I'd be interested in your reaction. Thanks for commenting!


Wednesday 2nd of November 2011

I'm glad to hear it was well done, Nancy, especially from you. I don't know when I'll see it, because I'm still recovering from Pinktober, frankly, and just today, I read yet another thing to make me want to crawl into bed & pull the covers over me -- namely, Nancy Brinker describing our justifiable criticisms of pinkwashing as 'grumblings.' Sigh.

Sometimes, it's hard to digest even the good stuff that is produced about the subject of cancer. I just want a massive vacation from the whole thing. But we never really get one, do we, once we get that diagnosis?

Your review convinced me, though, that I might actually enjoy watching this movie.



Wednesday 2nd of November 2011

Kathi, I know what you mean and I agree a massive vacation from it all would be nice, but that's not really possible is it? I did read the Nancy Brinker article. Hmm. It felt patronizing and condescending to me. (Its' on my Nancy's Point facebook page if anyone is interested) Well, let us know if you do see the movie. I enjoyed it and am glad I went. Thanks for your comments.


Tuesday 1st of November 2011

Nancy, I'm not sure I'm up to seeing this movie alone and don't want to put friends on the spot to go if it doesn't appeal to them. I like that it features someone under 30 because young cancer survivors need to see others they can relate to. I love Heida Adams' Planet Cancer website for young adults with cancer. One of my favorite Heidi discussions revolved around the question, "Is it OK to be buried in blue jeans?"

XOXOXO, Brenda


Wednesday 2nd of November 2011

Brenda, Yes, sometimes a person just isn't up to going to see a movie about cancer. I understand. I agree that it was important to feature a young person having cancer because cancer, of course, doesn't discriminate. I'm not familiar with the website you speak of. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for commenting.

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