The producers of 50/50 had the unenviable task of turning a surprise cancer diagnosis into a light-hearted comedy (based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own experiences with cancer), and for the most part they’ve done a good job. Appropriately, given the title, 50/50 spends half its time as a hang-out comedy (focusing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, the guy with cancer, and his best friend, Seth Rogen) and the other half as contemplation on coping with uncertainty and loss (focusing on love interest/therapist, Anna Kendrick, and his mother, Anjelica Huston).
Both halves are enjoyable; the film is rarely hilarious, but the good-natured banter between the leads is consistently amusing, and it sells the emotional moments without regressing into overly-sentimental schmaltz. It’s an unambitious film (the dialogue is naturalistic, the cinematography adequate), aiming for entertainment with a side of poignancy. Elements of the film are little too Hollywood: for example, Anna Kendrick does a good job with her character, but she feels like she’s been jimmied into the film to ensure that the main romance isn’t between Rogen and Gordon-Levitt. And I wasn’t comfortable with the film’s unabashed vilification of Adam’s girlfriend. These are small problems with a charming, touching little film.