Release: Friday, September 30, 2011
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in a precarious comedy about a young man whom is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer and whom is told has a 50-50 chance of survival. Given the high stakes involved, it is quite amazing how much I was laughing during the film.
Levitt plays the quiet but strong Adam Lerner, a radio producer from Seattle while Rogen (Kyle) goes and does his thing. Again. If it weren’t for the excellent casting decision to acquire Levitt, this film may have nosedived being that this is now the umpteenth time in a row that Rogen typecasts himself as the boogery-old stoner dude. Not to detract, but it almost doesn’t work for this type of comedy. Almost.
The script bravely walks the line of being painfully accurate — portraying the suffering and hardship endured by a cancer patient — while maintaining a darkly humorous edge. An attempt to crack a joke about cancer is probably not something you want to hear coming from a doctor. But from a director who can do it well, the laughs ought to feel 1000 times more rewarding. Even relaxing:
“No one wants to f**k me, I look like Voldemort.”
As superficial, generic or lazy as this comment is going to sound, this movie is really a commentary on life in its most pure state. Adam hangs on to it with desperation, yet also humility. Late in the movie, with Adam facing the most crucial operation he’ll likely ever undergo, this will to survive — one condition that may define what makes humans….humans — manifests itself in a physical form as he tries to hug his mother just a little longer before succumbing to the anesthesia. This scene is poignant in that it allows Levitt to finally release his pent-up emotions and stubbornness to cooperate with his mom’s overbearing nature. Its not the Levitt we’re used to seeing — slicked-back hair and duct-taping unconscious bodies while gravity seems to not apply in a dreamscape of chaos and bullets. Perhaps in that very scene Levitt is letting go of more than just this character’s emotions.
Way to go Joe! Brilliant performance. As far as the others go, however, ehh…not so much. The quarrels I have with this film are that the brilliant performances by Levitt and Anna Kendrick (Adam’s 24-year-old grad student therapist) and Anjelica Huston (Adam’s mother) are possibly the highlights as compared to the other characters. In particular, Adam’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, who refuses to remain at his beck-and-call (oh yeah, its just cancer that your boyfriend has) despite his worsening condition. And the doctor who diagnoses Adam with neurofibrosarcoma is about as cold as a doctor can be without being legally declared deceased. Some of these characters were a bit over the top for me.
However it stands to prove that the movie comes to bear the realities of the world, no matter how cruel, and adds a rare flare of humor in a very difficult time for any person. That’s unfortunately not a situation many people may get to experience with cancer. I’m just glad there’s a movie that can help ease some pain.
Recommendation: Well, if you haven’t by now, you should see it. It will not be the funniest performance delivered by Rogen, but if you’re into him, this is a slightly newer trick for an aging dog. Its very interesting to see him playing alongside the more put-together Levitt. As well, the sad reality is that cancer is so widespread, there’s probably something for most everyone to identify with in this 100-minute semi-autobiographical account.
Running Time: 100 mins.
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