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Review: 50/50

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.


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Review: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle seems to be one of those books that every kid read in school, and somehow I missed it. I wasn’t even aware of the book, but after seeing the movie trailer (featuring two of my favourite women in film and maybe the best-known woman in television). I decided it was time to get to know this apparently-beloved story.

First published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg, the oldest of four children who live with their mother and father – only their father has gone missing while doing top secret work for the government. Meg doesn’t fit in at school, and is seen as surly and rude. Her 5-year-old brother, wise beyond his years, introduces her to a strange trio of unusual characters, who don’t seem quite to be human.

Suddenly, without Meg understanding how it came to be, they team up with another boy from school and head off through the universe through to save her father. Meg must learn to accept her flaws and let them work for her, and she must be resourceful if she’s going to save her father, and something else precious that is lost along the way.

It’s a simple, unusual story, somewhat reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz in some of its absurdist elements. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it enchanting, but maybe I lack the nostalgia of coming back to it or the childlike wonder of reading it for the first time. It was an intriguing and imaginative story that examines what would happen if we could travel through space and time without regard to the rules of physics.

am really exited to see the movie (okay, mostly because Mindy Kaling is in it and she’s amazing), but it was good to know where the original story came from. I went to link up to the trailer and instead found a new one! I love the use of music to show the sinister side of the story:

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Review: Happier at Home

It’s no surprise to anyone at this point, but Gretchen Rubin’s book Happier at Home is another home run!

Although I listen to her podcast and have read several of her books, I somehow missed this one and didn’t realize that she’s actually completed two happiness projects. The first one, about which she wrote The Happiness Project, was followed a few years later by a second, nine-month project which followed the school year.

This second one is the focus of Happier at Home, which covers such topics as possessions, family, marriage, body, and neighbourhood. Written in a very similar style to the first project analysis, Happier at Home examines some of the same questions: whether it’s selfish to pursue happiness, whether money can in fact buy happiness, and to what extent you can influence the happiness of those around you (and vice versa).

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book. Rubin artfully combines anecdotes with research, so she can say “here’s what worked for me,” while at the same time explaining why that particular behaviour is backed up with research – or, in a couple of cases, how she deliberately defied the research and did what works for her.

Her key premise in both of her happiness projects was to “Be Gretchen,” and she talks throughout Happier at Home about the importance of doing what is true for yourself. She presents the research, but also shares the real-life changes she made or how she was able to incorporate the info into her home.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Go read it! Gretchen Rubin does not disappoint.