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50/50

Year: 2011
Studio: Summit
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Cast: Joseph Gorden Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

There's a strange black hole of movie releases early in the year when they're not going for the midyear videogame tie in blockbuster market and they're not screaming 'give me an Oscar' at the top of their lungs. It gives filmmakers a refreshing amount of freedom.

50/50 is hard to pin down as a comedy and it's hard to call a drama. Dramedy doesn't really do it justice because to me that term usually means a drama with a few laughs thrown in. Here there's more of a seamless infusion of the two. The laughs have heart and the sadness and fear inherent in the story has a healthy sense for how ridiculous life is and how silly people can be.

Joseph Gordon Levitt is the reserved, quiet Adam, living with his girlfriend Rachael (Howard) –slightly selfish but not quite villainous enough for you to hate her. Seth Rogen is his much more boisterous best friend Kyle, a character that trades on Rogen's comic background but gives him some dramatic elbow room as well.

When a routine doctor's appointment reveals a huge malignant tumour on Adam's spine, it starts an odyssey of self discovery – trying to decide whether to be dismissive or terrified and not quite knowing how to engage with the world in his new state, including trying to hit on girls and telling his slightly smothering mother (Huston) the news.

Like life itself it's a roller coaster ride of the shifts in feelings and relationships as Adam goes through his version of the five stages of grief. He connects slowly and tentatively with his inexperienced but earnest therapist (Kendrick), searches the soul of his friendship with Kyle, and sees Rachael for what she really is.

It's a smart enough movie (as well as being sweet, funny and sensitive) that you don't expect a Hollywood happy ending, and by the time the crunch comes for Adam you're extremely invested in the characters and wondering if he'll make it.

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