Every time you think that's there's a taboo subject that shouldn't be addressed, Hollywood, even if it's years much later, brings it to the fore with a movie. So, after Philadelphia confronted the topic of aids we finally have a film that carries on after where Terms Of Endearment started and brings the "big C" to the center stage once again...
Except this time round, the delivery is squarely aimed at the funny bone rather than the malignant bone as a theme and an anchor for the viewer. This means that ideally the experience should be a pleasant one but therein lies the rub - just when you think it's ok to laugh or smile at the situation or the interpretation of the events that are unfolding, that's when 50/50 hits you squarely in the gut with a sobering side.
Gordon-Levitt, if he's not careful, could end up being type cast as the go-to-guy for all off-kilter version of mainstream movies. His turn in (500) Days Of Summer helped it become one of the best romantic stories of the now and past generations and now he's put himself up for the role of a young, non-carefree individual who is struck down with a rare case of cancer without taking any obvious hang-ups such as smoking or drinking. This makes the degree of unfairness that more harder to swallow for those around him - especially his over-protective mother (Huston on fine form), his quickly over-whelmed girlfriend (Dallas Howard) and his best friend (Rogen doing what he does best.)
The rarer side of cancer in the story is what seems to allow the writer to take liberties with the audiences emotions and go for broke during the first half of the movies running time with the more up-beat reactions to the cancer news. The bulk of this relies on the bro-mance between Levitt and Rogen as the stoner best friend tries to dis-credit the cheating girlfriend and tries to use his friends cancer as a pulling tool with the ladies. Writer Will Reiser drew on his real-life fight with cancer for the screenplay and essentially Rogen is playing himself as he was Reiser's best friend during it making the reactions and friendship all that more poignant.
The second half where the illness takes hold and the operation that could go either way is offered (hence the 50/50 title) still raises smiles but this is where the reality sinks in. It is kept in check with the "see it a mile away" burgeoning romance between patient and newbie therapist (the delightful Kendrick on equal Up In The Air top form.)
An awkward subject matter handled deftly and surprisingly well where laughter and tears go hand-in-hand, this shows that, like (500) Days Of Summer, any story can be told, no matter how old (love) or sad (death) with a freshness that can make it worthwhile and memorable for the viewer.
UK release date: 25.11.12