“50/50” is a comedy about cancer. That’s right, I said comedy and cancer in one sentence. How the makers of this terrific film created a story about a young man’s battle with cancer that manages to be heartbreaking and funny at the same time is still a mystery to me. I guess it does help to have a smart screenplay and a couple of solid actors in the lead; you’ve got Joseph Gordon Levitt who gives a performance that is flawless in every detail (it’s hard to believe this is the same guy who starred in “10 Things I hate About You” so many years ago) as a 27-year-old public radio employee in Seattle who doesn’t smoke or drink, or even cross the street when the light is red—but all the same he’s diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. “Have you ever seen “Terms Of Endearment?” Gordon says to his mother before breaking the news of his cancer diagnosis. Fear not, “50/50” isn’t pure drama. Seth Rogen (who plays Gordon’s best pal) provides the comedic touch, but never overplays it, which is why it all sounds so damn honest at some point. But that’s probably because most of it is actually true. Screenwriter Will Reiser was diagnosed with cancer at 24, and Seth Rogen was the real-life annoying friend at his side. It all makes sense now.
Yes cancer sucks. But “50/50” doesn’t. It’s a comedy with brains that, at key moments, feels as sweet and heartfelt as “Terms Of Endearment”. It’s easily one of the year’s finest films.