Blu-ray Review: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Great ‘50/50’

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CHICAGO – There’s some wonderful alternate universe where the excellent “50/50” received the Oscar recognition it deserved last week and it at LEAST notched a Best Original Screenplay nomination while the performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, and Anjelica Huston were considered for their categories. Then again, in that universe at least half the Oscar nominations were different and at least one of the Best Picture nominees was never made. The point is that Jonathan Levine’s daring cancer comedy got screwed. Catch up with it on Blu-ray or DVD and see if you agree. Blu-ray rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

My personal pick for the Best Original Screenplay (for Will Reiser) of 2011 is so because of the deft balance of genres at work in this stunning film — buddy comedy, light romance, family drama, and, oh yeah, cancer movie. And Reiser completely pulls it off. He never goes to far into wacky buddy comedy and NEVER goes for the melodrama, allowing the honest emotion of the piece to come naturally. You will cry. You will laugh. It’s a near-perfect rental, featuring great performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, and Anjelica Huston. People are going to fall in love with this movie on Blu-ray and DVD. See it before one of your friend recommends it.

The “based on a true story” element of “50/50” is that Rogen and Reiser are real-life buddies and Reiser had cancer. While there are a lot of fictional differences between Reiser’s true story and this one, the key foundation is what matters — friendship through tragedy. What’s so refreshing about “50/50” is that it completely avoids a traditional, manipulative arc. People don’t turn into Hollywood clichés after having that one doctor’s visit that will change their lives forever. They go on. They still have girlfriends, still have friends, and still have needs.

Photo credit: Summit

From my theatrical review:

“Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a pretty average guy. He has a longtime friend named Kyle (Seth Rogen) and an artsy girlfriend named Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). He also has unusual back pain. What is not average about Adam is that, unlike a lot of men in their mid-20s, he has a tumor along his spine. He’s given a 50/50 shot at surviving and begins chemotherapy (with fantastic supporting work from Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer in small-but-memorable roles as former patients). He also begins therapy with a young doctor named Katherine (Anna Kendrick) and uncomfortably tells his mother (Anjelica Huston) about the potentially-fatal coin flip he’s going through with his life.”

Photo credit: Summit

While some of the arcs in “50/50” are a bit predictable (one knows that Rachael is not a keeper and that Katherine is so almost immediately), it’s the honest emotions of the piece that keeps it fresh. Reiser deserves a lot of praise for that honesty but it helps to have an actor in the lead role who seems unable to do anything that feels false. “Brick,” “The Lookout,” “Inception,” “(500) Days of Summer,” and now this, arguably his career-best. JGL rules. He’s easily one of the best actors of his generation. And he is matched here by a great supporting cast, including a turn from the legendary Huston that ranks with her best. She’s only in a few scenes but she’s spectacular.

“50/50” is a tough sell. People looking for a comedy probably don’t want to deal with cancer issues and people looking for drama probably don’t want to deal with Seth Rogen. Trust me. This movie is one of the more essential of 2011. Don’t miss it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen team up to beat the odds in a film that Peter Travers ofRolling Stone calls “achingly hilarious and heartfelt.” Diagnosed with spinal cancer, 27-year-old Adam (Gordon-Levitt) navigates the road to recovery with the sometimes overbearing support of his crude best friend (Rogen), his smothering mother (Anjelica Huston) and an inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick). Inspired by the true story, 50/50 is an honest yet hysterically funny account of a young man’s journey toward healing.

Special Features:
o Audio Commentary with Seth Rogen, Director Jonathan Levine, and Writer Will Reiser
o Deleted Scenes
o The Story of 50/50
o Life Inspires Art
o Seek and Destroy

“50/50” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, Bryce Dallas Howard, Philip Baker Hall, and Matt Frewer. It was written by Will Reiser and directed by Jonathan Levine. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 24th, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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