A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fact-based dramedy (co-star Seth Rogen's real-life friend, Will Reiser, wrote the movie based on his own experiences) tackles some pretty heavy themes -- particularly the idea of facing the specter of death before the age of 30 -- that could overwhelm young teens attracted by the film's stars: Rogen and (500) Days of Summer's Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Expect plenty of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more) and some sexually charged talk and scenes (including partial female nudity), plus drug use (both medicinal and recreational).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old public radio editor, discovers one day that the aches and pains that have been plaguing him signal a frightening reality: He has cancer, with a 50/50 shot of beating the odds. As he undergoes chemotherapy, Adam begins to confront his relationships and friendships, questioning whether they're satisfying and meaningful -- and, if not, what he needs to do about them. For example, is his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) the right girl for him? Can his best friend (Seth Rogen) deal with his illness? Should he trust his new therapist (Anna Kendrick)? And is he who he wants to be -- as a son, a significant other, a friend?
Is it any good?
50/50 faces so many hurdles on its way to success. There are so many cliches that a movie about terminal illness has to skirt: How to handle the reveal without being overdramatic? Should there be a transformation -- and, if so, how to make it believable? So, good for director Jonathan Levine (and writer Will Reiser and the producers, including Rogen), for managing to create a refreshingly irreverent -- though still poignant -- film about the subject.
Far from being sappy and mawkish, the movie is unafraid to ask difficult questions: Does illness allow you to put yourself first all the time? How much can you ask of others when you're sick? And it's bold enough to mine the situation for hilarity without minimizing it or going for the easy jokes. That said, it's not perfect by any means; Adam's girlfriend turns needlessly villainous, and a storyline about Adam's father could have used more depth but instead peters out. But ultimately, it takes confidence to create a movie like this one, as well as a great actor like Gordon-Levitt, who has created an Adam we can root for easily and without pity. When you see 50/50, be prepared to laugh and think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the film deals with the subject matter of chronic illness -- in this case, cancer. Is Adam's reaction believable? Does it seem at all exaggerated?
Did you notice any sexism or stereotypes in the movie? How do the women in this movie compare to those in other Seth Rogen movies? Is this movie more or less crude than Rogen's other films? Do you think that has something to do with the subject matter?
The movie is based on the writer's own experiences. How true to life do you think it actually is? Why do writers/filmmakers sometimes change facts when they're making movies?
- In theaters: September 30, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2012
- Cast: Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen
- Director: Jonathan Levine
- Studio: Mandate Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, sexual content and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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