50/50 [Blu-Ray] Jonathan Levine

50/50 [Blu-Ray] Jonathan Levine
Handling the sensitive subject of life-threatening illness with a healthy sense of humour, 50/50 takes an even-handed look at how different personality types respond when confronted by mortality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers yet another fully committed performance as subdued, amiable 27-year-old Seattle Public Radio employee Adam, who discovers he has a rare form of cancer. As his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking best buddy Kyle, Seth Rogan plays yet another version of himself, but at least this time he's actually supposed to. The story is inspired by his real life friend and screenwriter Will Reiser's experiences with spinal cancer. Acting more concerned with how to use Adam's illness to his dick's advantage than how his friend is feeling, Kyle's coping mechanism manifests in minor hedonistic distractions. Despite this ostrich-defence front, Kyle still has Adam's best interests in mind more so than his understandably overbearing mother (Anjelica Houston) and his reprehensively neglectful and dishonest girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), who feels compelled by guilt to stay in the situation, even after being given a rational and understanding out when the diagnosis initially came in. Howard's character has the trickiest balancing act to pull off, and she eventually sails past any form of sympathy into villainous territory, though her actions never seem implausible – some people are just shitty. At the centre of all this, Adam has a much more well adjusted outlook than anyone around him, even helping his inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick, brimming with awkward charm) learn how to handle a patient in his position. Director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) shows a great deal of restraint, allowing the strong writing and acting to do the heavy lifting while injecting a bit of personality into scenes like Adam's pleasantly hazy perspective after trying pot cookies and when his hearing and vision blur after the word "cancer" pops out of his doctor's incomprehensible, jargon-filled diagnosis. There's a bit of implausible "movie logic" that pushes for a third act romance without addressing its ethical implications, but it's easy to understand the temptation to put a happier spin on material this heavy. It wasn't Reiser's initial instinct though – the deleted scenes include an original ending that required more emotional range than Seth Rogan has access to. In addition to the deleted scenes with optional commentary, "The Story of 50/50" sees Rogan, Reiser and producer Evan Goldberg talking about the experience of finding out about, and dealing with, Reiser's cancer while they were working on the Ali G show together. Their anecdotes are cut with behind-the-scenes footage and clips of crewmembers relating their personal connections to cancer. To answer a few lingering questions of fact versus fiction, "Life Inspires Art" looks at how closely scenes like trying to use cancer to get laid were based on reality. Unnecessary inclusion "Seek and Destroy" is simply behind-the-scenes footage of the painting destruction scene. Of far more interest is a feature commentary with Rogan, Goldberg, Levine and Reiser, which is frequently entertaining, with obvious camaraderie between the participants and a plethora of rejected cancer-pun titles keeping things lively. (eOne)