Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Catching up with 2011: 50/50

A disappointing movie for sure, 50/50 is only works on occasion and suffers, like most Seth Rogen vehicles, from a horrible small-minded view of women. The thing of it is, 50/50 – aside from being based on Rogen’s friend and screenwriter Will Reiser – shouldn’t have even been seen as a Seth Rogen movie (he’s barely in it), but here we are. It’s too bad because Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a damn fine performance that often steers clear of the dreaded “actor playing someone afflicted with cancer” clich├ęs. I can’t say I can put myself in the shoes of the characters as the cancer plot didn’t really move me from a personal experience side of things. This left me focusing more on the lesser elements of the film – the elements that director Jonathan Levine seemed incapable of directing a different way – those moments that were so groan-inducing because they felt like they needed to be in a completely different Rogen vehicle, not one that tries to deal with the subject of cancer. Rogen’s character is so hateful in this movie. Not for a second does 50/50 take into consideration how someone having cancer affects those close to that person (it’s too tame and narrow-minded of a movie to think outside of its limitation), so when Levitt’s girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) has conflicting emotions about being with her boyfriend who has cancer she’s labeled as a whore or a slut or even worse by Rogen’s character. I think the film wants us to side with the “bro” Rogen, but all it did was make me hate his character even more. His character was so ugly and distracting that whenever he popped up on screen, I tuned out. The scene that epitomizes this is when Rogen’s character catches Levitt’s girlfriend kissing another guy, and he yells at her as she tried to explain to Levitt that he caught her and that he has hated her forever and that now he has the evidence that she is a bad person; yet, he’s the one who comes off as a bad person…a horrible person, really, and if it weren’t for Howard acting the hell out of the scene, it would just sit there as a really nasty moment in otherwise forgettable movie.

The movie loses its teeth by the end, anyhow, so I don’t think even a good performance from Rogen (who immediately goes into Rogen mode when we first see him with lines like, “You smell like you fucked the cast of The View” when commenting on the way Levitt smells) would have saved it. I didn’t even bother writing down the characters names, and I don’t even feel like doing a Google search for them; I haven’t even gotten into how shitty romantic subplot in this movie is and how horribly stilted a performance the always coma-inducing Anna Kendrick gives (not that’s she’s given much a character to begin with). That’s how little I care about this movie. What a waste.


  1. Kevin, I love the new look of the blog, and am thrilled to see you are back on the writing scene. As always you pull no putches and probe deeply to reach a position. As it is I'll admit I do like this film much more and found it much more tolerable than you did. I thought it was very well written (and acted by Gordon-Levitt, as you yourself conceed) and there isn't an iota of sentimentality or self-pity in this story of humor popping up in the most unlikely places. I can see some serious objections to Rogen's crudity for sure, and I know the dark humor isn't to everyone's taste. But with the dearth of manipulation I dare say there's an inspirational side to the narrative arc.

    I fully understand and respect your position nonetheless, and while the film has obviously won terrific reviews across the board, a few others at Wonders in the Dark have engaged me in e mail wars, standing toe-to-toe with your position.

    Great to see you back my friend!

  2. Don't agree with your assessment of this film at all.