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2011, Comedy/Drama, 1h 39m
What to know
A good-hearted film about a difficult topic, 50/50 maneuvers between jokes and drama with surprising finesse. Read critic reviews
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Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has always tried to take good care of his health, so it comes as a cruel surprise when he learns that he has malignant tumors along his spine. His doctor gives him a 50/50 chance of survival, but Adam tries to remain upbeat, though his mother (Anjelica Huston) and his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), react badly to the news. Adam starts seeing a therapist (Anna Kendrick), but their relationship threatens to cross the boundary between doctor and patient.
Rating: R (Sexual Content|Language Throughout|Some Drug Use)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Original Language: English
Director: Jonathan Levine
Producer: Evan Goldberg , Seth Rogen , Ben Karlin
Writer: Will Reiser
Release Date (Theaters): Sep 30, 2011 wide
Release Date (Streaming): Jan 7, 2014
Box Office (Gross USA): $35.0M
Runtime: 1h 39m
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Production Co: Summit Entertainment, Point Grey, Mandate Pictures
Sound Mix: SDDS, Dolby Digital, DTS
Cast & Crew
Bryce Dallas Howard
Philip Baker Hall
News & Interviews for 50/50
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 10 Best Movies
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Definitive Seth Rogen Performances
Critic Reviews for 50/50
Audience reviews for 50/50.
50/50 is funny when it needs to be and serious when it needs to be. This film does tackle a difficult subject but is definitely worth a watch!
the ultimate Bromance movie, either way it is awesome.
Not a big fan of either of these actors, but the story itself wasn't bad.
'50/50'. The characters and emotions feel SO, SO real, and are wonderfully realised through fantastic writing and acting. I experienced and felt every high and low, and it's one of the best emotional roller-coasters of the year. I hate happy endings, but I was way too invested to hope for anything else with this. And Anna Kendrick? Wow, I have the biggest crush on her right now.
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Adam ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt ) is a writer for public radio in Seattle, which makes him almost a poster boy for someone who should grow old and wise. He has a nagging back pain. He ends up in the office of an oncologist, who tells him it is a rare form of cancer of the spine. "50/50" was written by Will Reiser , who himself was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. Seth Rogen , who plays Adam's best friend, Kyle, is a close friend of Reiser in real life, and the movie is based on what happened in their friendship after the diagnosis.
After surgery and treatment, Reiser is currently in the sixth year of remission and cheerfully observes, "Remission apparently lasts forever … or until you die." In an interview by Jen Chaney with the two of them in the Washington Post, they joke endlessly, which is perhaps inevitable between a comedy writer and a comic actor, and although "50/50" is structured with the efficiency of a sitcom, there's an undercurrent of truth and real feeling.
Adam turns to his best buddy for support and encouragement. Kyle rises to the occasion, unlike Rachael ( Bryce Dallas Howard ), his girlfriend, who (as he learns) wasn't all that committed even before the awful diagnosis. Rachael of course vows to stand by and help him, as society says we must do, but in fact, cancer is a messy and depressing business, and she signed on to be a girlfriend, not a nurse. She doesn't have the right stuff. And believe me, the challenges Adam presents for her in "50/50" are nothing compared to real life. If you've been involved in the case of a loved one with cancer, you'll observe that this girl gets off easy.
Adam is also supported, maybe too much, by his mother, Diane ( Anjelica Huston ), who actually moves into his house. Her husband has Alzheimer's, and she's stuck by him, so she has the right stuff, but when you're sick, you need quiet time and the constant presence of a determined mother is not always what's called for.
The movie places Adam in a cancer patients' support group, where fellow patient Alan ( Philip Baker Hall ) provides dry, realistic input. Alan is a model of acceptance, the fifth stage in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' "Five Stages of Grief." His work here is a reminder of what an effective actor Hall always is. Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, Adam's therapist, who gets just as involved as his oncologist is aloof. I know therapists are supposed to observe a certain distance, but in a case like this, I don't see how one can. I would make a terrible therapist.
The screenplay perhaps benefits from Reiser's experience on TV and proceeds in an orderly way through a basic sitcom structure. Some of the comedy aspects may seem unlikely, but Seth Rogen has a winning way about him and reveals genuine affection. If a movie like this were as relentlessly realistic as a masterpiece like Mike Nichols' "Wit," it would probably not be commercial and end up, as "Wit" did, on HBO. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
What I appreciated was the third act. Sitcoms and film comedies in general have a way of going haywire with comic desperation toward the end. This one doesn't. Director Jonathan Levine (" The Wackness ") has established the characters with enough care that the audience is prepared when they reveal greater depth toward the end. Anjelica Huston is especially good at breaking free of what seem to be the boundaries of her role.
"50/50" isn't completely true to life, but the more you know about cancer, the less you want it to be. Like another recent feel-good film about the disease, Gus Van Sant's " Restless ," it creates a comforting myth. That's one of the things movies are good for.
Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.
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Rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam
Seth Rogen as Kyle
Anna Kendrick as Katherine
Bryce Dallas Howard as Rachael
Philip Baker Hall as Alan
Anjelica Huston as Diane
- Jonathan Levine
- Will Reiser
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Movie Review | '50/50'
The Healing Powers of a Friendship When Life’s Complications Strike
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By Manohla Dargis
- Sept. 29, 2011
“50/50,” a feel-good and slightly bad comedy-drama about a young man’s fight against cancer, aims to put a tear in your eye and a sob in your throat, if not for long. Certainly the waterworks don’t need much plumbing, as might be expected when the 27-year-old Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Seattle radio producer, learns that he has a malignant spinal tumor. Shock and grief and bewilderment ensue as do jokes about barbered testicles and the wisdom of playing the C (as in cancer) card with chicks.
The wisenheimer coaxing those light laughs is Adam’s best friend, Kyle, played and sometimes bellowed by a shaggy Seth Rogen with his familiar mix of affability, innocence and vulgarity. As with most of Mr. Rogen’s characters, Kyle is really only guilty of coarse manners and of being a puppyish hound, which in the bromance world is a natural state of grace, close to a benediction. Like all bromance dudes, Kyle is the kind of decent guy that every other decent guy wants to have at his side, especially if the woman occupying that spot is as uptight as Adam’s girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard). She paints abstract canvases and isn’t sexually giving, so you can guess where that’s headed.
Most of the rest of the signposts are as obviously planted. Directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”), “ 50/50 ” was written by Will Reiser, who based it on his own experiences with spinal cancer. (He and Mr. Rogen became friends while working on the satiric television series “Da Ali G Show.” Mr. Reiser no longer has cancer.) When the story opens, Adam is settling into domesticity with Rachael (he’s cleared out a drawer for her in his apartment) and together with Kyle is working at a public radio station. The two men do toil — you see Adam briefly laboring over a story about a volcano — but their jobs mostly register as afterthoughts, narrative rationales for their cars and homes.
A persistent pain in his back sends Adam to the doctor where he soon receives his grim diagnosis, his disbelief no match for the coolly delivered, frightening-sounding medical terms that rush over him like darkness. Within seconds he has crossed into the land of the sick, a place that the filmmakers try to portray with real, difficult feeling while also making it as cozy and finally unthreatening as possible. It’s a tough balancing act, one that Mr. Levine and Mr. Reiser struggle with as they — along with Kyle’s crude cutup and Adam’s tragic figure — keep toggling between the film’s genuinely funny bits and those interludes that grope toward scarier, heavier. Then Anna Kendrick , as Katherine, a 24-year-old therapist assigned to Adam, shows up and makes everything better.
The likable Mr. Gordon-Levitt has a thousand ways to look unhappy, dejected, depressed, freaked out, wrung out and sick to his stomach, but there’s something so recessive about Adam, or rather underconceived, that the character never grabs you as hard as you expect and really need. The problem isn’t that he needs to win you over: the diagnosis and Mr. Gordon-Levitt’s natural appeal put you on Adam’s side readily enough. It’s that neither the actor nor the filmmakers can get under Adam’s skin, despite all the close-ups and the moodily shot scenes filled with the kind of movie silence that feels more like the groping of an uncertain screenwriter than of a man facing his mortality.
That said, Mr. Gordon-Levitt keeps your sympathies, even when Adam enters wincing-relationship terrain with Rachael. (Ms. Howard improves with each performance but should be careful not to lock herself into shrewish type.) Rachael’s behavior doesn’t ring true, but unlike in some bromances, neither is she just another stick figure with breasts, and Ms. Howard makes a real character out of her. Other dividends include a very nice Anjelica Huston as Adam’s mother, the great Philip Baker Hall as a cancer-afflicted curmudgeon self-medicating with weed and, best of all, Ms. Kendrick (familiar as George Clooney’s foil in “Up in the Air”), an actress whose superb comic timing lifts the movie, and you.
“50/50” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Vulgarities.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Jonathan Levine; written by Will Reiser; director of photography, Terry Stacey; edited by Zene Baker; music by Michael Giacchino; production design by Annie Spitz; costumes by Carla Hetland; produced by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Ben Karlin; released by Summit Entertainment. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
WITH: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Adam), Seth Rogen (Kyle), Anna Kendrick (Katherine), Bryce Dallas Howard (Rachael), Anjelica Huston (Diane), Philip Baker Hall (Alan) and Serge Houde (Richard).
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Common Sense Media Reviewers
Cancer patient questions his life in mature dramedy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie's main message is that adversity nee
Adam is resilient in the face of a shocking, scary
A guy curses out a woman and calls her derogatory
A man and a woman are shown having sex (breasts ar
Frequent use of "f--k," "s--t,"
Some name-dropping and labels on display, includin
Some social drinking. Medicinal and recreational d
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…
The movie's main message is that adversity need not break you; cliched as it may sound, it can make you confront yourself and those around you as you seek a more fulfilling (and healthier in more ways than one) life.
Positive Role Models
Adam is resilient in the face of a shocking, scary diagnosis. Despite this, he's able to care for others (though he does have blind spots) and be generous with his time and friendship. And he finally learns to value himself and embrace life as he faces the possibility of death. His friends and counselor also learn from being around him. Women portrayed stereotypically.
Violence & Scariness
A guy curses out a woman and calls her derogatory names in front of someone else. Other examples of strong anger directed at a female character.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and a woman are shown having sex (breasts are visible, but genitals are not). Frank discussions between two men about how to hit on women and get them to have sex with them. A woman is caught kissing a man who's not her boyfriend.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.
Frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "c--t," "c--k," "p---y," "a--hole," "ass," "motherf--ker," "oh my God," and more.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.
Products & Purchases
Some name-dropping and labels on display, including iPod, The View , Jeep, Dwell magazine, Facebook, Toyota, Rite Aid, and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some social drinking. Medicinal and recreational drug use. Bongs are visible; weed-laced brownies are shared.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
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). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .
Where to Watch
Videos and photos.
- Parents say (6)
- Kids say (24)
Based on 6 parent reviews
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 stereotype s 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
- Inclusion Information : Female actors
- Studio : Mandate Pictures
- Genre : Comedy
- Run time : 99 minutes
- MPAA rating : R
- MPAA explanation : language throughout, sexual content and drug use
- Last updated : September 19, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Cast & Crew
Bryce Dallas Howard
Jessica Parker Kennedy
Cancer patient questions his life in mature dramedy.
- Average 7.7
- Reviews 198
© 2011 IWC PRODUCTIONS, LLC All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2023 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.
Summary Inspired by personal experiences, 50/50 is an original story about friendship, love, survival and finding humor in unlikely places. Two best friends lives change when one of them is diagnosed with cancer. (Summit Entertainment)
Directed By : Jonathan Levine
Written By : Will Reiser
Where to Watch
Bryce Dallas Howard
Richard - alzheimer dad.
Philip Baker Hall
Donna yamamoto, dr. walderson.
Sugar Lyn Beard
Yee Jee Tso
Jessica Parker Kennedy
Dr. phillips, p. lynn johnson.
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