Monday, October 3, 2011

Jonathan Levine: Tightrope of Tedium (50/50)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, 50/50, Summit Entertainment, 2011.

Up and coming director Jonathan Levine treads a tightrope of tedium and for the most part, succeeds, in the entertaining new picture, 50/50. A painfully rote plot line is resuscitated thanks to clever dialogue (by comedy producer turned first time scripter Will Reiser), top notch acting and sensitive direction.

A young man living in a house it doesn't seem he could afford in reality with his public radio job, is diagnosed with cancer. The way this plays out is depicted in a lot of completely cliched characterizations and sequences which only work because of the talent heralding them. When these sort of pictures get made by people with artistic merit, we have to marvel at the fact that it's not what a film is about which determines its value, but how it is about it.

Ultimately, the entire affair is a showcase for the incendiary talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His performance as Adam is a tender, ferocious thing of beauty. Anjelica Huston matches him along the way as his clinging Mother. She is a powerhouse in what is the juiciest role she's had in years. The rest of the cast fill in their roles well, Seth Rogen perfect if typecast as Adam's schlubby dirt bag buddy Kyle, Matt Frewer and Phillip Baker Hall exceptional as Adam's treatment pals, and Bryce Dallas Howard and Anna Kendrick both good as the opposite women in Adam's life.

Levine, who broke out about five years ago with the original indie horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
which he followed with the interesting pseudo-indie film The Wackness, makes a confident studio debut with this two hankie early Oscar baiter. A heavy reliance on acting and audience expectation pays off, with a fairly intelligent, well-meaning popcorn flick.

No comments:

Post a Comment