Posts tagged Jonathan Levine
Cancer doesn’t discriminate; it attacks people of all ages, sexes and races. And just because you lead a healthy life, that doesn’t necessarily, make you immune from it. This is the unfair situation our protagonist Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) faces at the outset of Jonathan Levine’s dramedy “50/50.”
Adam doesn’t do drugs and he exercises regularly. The guy is such a bag of nerves that he doesn’t even have his driver’s license, despite being in his late 20s. Since Adam lives free of risk, you can imagine his shock after learning that he has a rare type of cancer, with a 50 percent chance of survival. Thankfully he has his overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) and his sarcastic best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) to lean on.
In spite of Adam’s potentially life-threatening condition however, Kyle is more interested in using the cancer to help pick up women and to get his hands on medical marijuana. A great deal of humor comes from Adam and Kyle’s adventures together, and the constant tête à tête between Rogen and Gordon-Levitt. Rogen’s acerbic jokes are perfectly balanced by Gordon-Levitt’s deadpan delivery and neurotic mannerisms.
Part of what makes the comedic aspects of the film so successful, is the close supervision of writer Will Reiser, whose own battle with cancer is the basis for the film. The banter comes off so organically because Rogen and Reiser made a conscious effort to cut situations, which felt unnatural to their experiences.
Though he is largely unobtrusive as a director, Jonathan Levine effectively uses light to help express Adam’s feelings and lend sensitivity to his struggles. This is most apparent right after Adam’s diagnosis in Levine’s over saturation of light and some of the dark tones that we see once Adam starts chemotherapy.
Another thing that heightens the emotional impact of the film is Levine’s focus on human relationships. The friendship between Kyle and Adam, as well as the kinship Adam develops with his fellow cancer patients really anchor the film dramatically. Getting to know others with cancer helps to increase the weight of the disease and gets you to care about the people it affects.
“50/50” will make you laugh, but it will also pull pretty hard on your heartstrings. To label it as a straight comedy, as some commercials are doing, is disrespectful to what a poignant story it is however. Jonathan Levine and Will Reiser have created a tale, which impressively makes light of a dark subject like cancer, while also remaining respectful to immense difficulty of coping with such a serious disease.
My Grade: A
Hollywood doesn’t generally show young people dealing with cancer, especially not 20-somethings like Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). And if it’s going to explore such a serious topic, it’s almost certainly not going to make light of the situation like “50/50.”
Adam doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, and he definitely doesn’t do drugs. It comes as a huge surprise then, when he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and told he has a 50 percent chance of beating it. To brave the fight, Adam must lean on his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), who seems more interested in picking up women and smoking medical marijuana, than taking it seriously.
Jonathan Levine’s dramedy “50/50” is based on writer Will Reiser’s own battle with cancer, and his interactions with his real life friend Seth Rogen. The film takes a uniquely comedic approach to the concept of serious illness, while still showing sensitivity to the emotional struggles of a life threatening disease.
Recently I sat down for a roundtable interview with Seth Rogen and Will Reiser when they were in Boston promoting “50/50.” Rogen is exactly like you would expect in person: sarcastic, funny, and easily prone to laughter. As a behind the scenes type of person Reiser is quieter and more reserved, but his sense of humor is very similar to Rogen’s. Below are some of the highlights of our conversation.