50/50

I have to say, even though I love the entire cast, I have avoided watching 50/50 for the sole reason that for most of my nursing career, I have performed spinal surgery.

In 50/50 Adam (Joeseph Gordon Levitt) goes in to have his back pain checked out and is surprised to learn he has a malignant nerve sheath tumor. This story loosely follows the real experiences of the film’s writer Will Reiser, a 27-year-old whose life changes drastically with this grim prognosis. How do you move forward when the future is unclear? How can you be strong when everyone assumes you are weak…especially when you are riddled with cancer and poisonous chemotherapy? How can you take this story and make it a comedy?

Well, I have the answer to the last question at least — with a great cast and a thoughtful script. Do I sound too positive? Well, Reiser has taken the emotions one feels and parlayed them into a tragic comedy that maneuvers through the ups and downs and more downs.

After Adam’s meeting with his doctor, his relationships will change. His girlfriend (a forgettable Bryce Dallas Howard) has to step it up…or not….who knows. His best friend Kyle (a filthy, base and brilliant Seth Rogen) also has to adapt to being the wing-man for a dying man…or is he dying?  His mom (a brash and overbearing Anjelica Huston) must learn to back off while still being available as a human punching bag…you know like mom’s are when you upset.

The person who struck a chord with me was the psychology practitioner, Katharine (an awkward and stiff Anna Kendrick). I felt that she was copying her role from Up In the Air. A starchy perfectionist with a glaring inability to connect with someone feeling real emotion. I will say, in personal experience, that when I was in nursing school, I said the wrong thing to every single patient. Communicating with patient’s takes empathy, understanding and more importantly, practice. Kendrick does a spot on job of being uncomfortable, showing that not all are experts at connecting. To take on the fear and pain of a client without actually feeling those things yourself is hard. It makes me sad she was shunned by the Academy for a nomination.

Overall, this was a very funny movie. 50/50 which, by the way, is a reference to Adam’s survival rate. This film has a perfect balance. Think of the cancery schmutlz of Stepmom and the clever comedy of Sideways. I recommend it to all. Though, as with any movie that shows actual surgery, I was upset that a simple call to a medical consultant was not made. See it. Then do a self-breast exam.

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