Watching 50/50 reminded me of Silver Linings Playbook in a lot of ways. Set in a nonspecific present, it follows the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a young man dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. After a doctor with terrible bedside manner gives him the bad news, he goes home and learns online that his rare type of cancer has a 50% chance of survival.
Like SLP, 50/50 isn’t really a story about a quest that forces a character to chase after something. Instead, it’s more of a snapshot of a particular time in the character’s life. Adam must undergo chemotherapy treatment; he shaves his head; he attends therapy with a new resident therapist (Anna Kendrick); he hangs out with his best friend (Seth Rogan). The people in his life matter, and he learns about them through being sick himself: his girlfriend, his best friend, his mother. He meets some new people along the way. And it seems like none of them are particularly remarkable, but together they form Adam’s support system and help him as he makes his way through each day.
I must make specific note of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance in this film: as a viewer I felt so strongly for Adam. Of course I wanted him to get better, but I also wanted him to get his ‘smaller’ wins: connect with his mother. Break up with his girlfriend. Even having a breakdown felt like a win after his character went for weeks feeling numb. He left room for the viewer to feel.
Actually, the whole film was crafted in a way that leaves room for the viewer to think and feel and empathize and sympathize and wonder. And at the end, Adam was different than when it started. Strangely, he was also the same. The change happened so quietly you hardly notice, but it’s definitely there.
Subtle, yet powerful. Good movie.