Friend-of-HE Nick Clement — a.k.a. “Action Man” — just got out of a Connnecticut screening of Jonathan Levine‘s 50/50 (Summit, 9.30) “and wow, I was not prepared for how accomplished it was,” he says. “Holy shit, what a great movie! Powerful. Sad but oddly uplifting. And funny. Genuinely funny.
“Joseph Gordon Levitt kills it — very understated, never going too hard for the emotions, always feeling 100% natural. And say what you will about Seth Rogen, but he’s perfect in this movie — and for the film to work at all, it needed a lot of humor, as there’s nothing funny about the situation that JGL’s character is facing. Rogen is basically capable of doing one thing — playing the rude, crude stoner who always has something funny to say — and that’s fine with me. He’s the best at this particular kind of comedy, and for me he never disappoints.
“My wife just got over a cancer-related illness where chemo was required (six months of it), and while she was never at risk with losing her life during her ordeal, I really related to a lot of what I was looking at tonight on the big screen. There’s a moment in the film where JGL makes a confession to his therapist (the fucking awesome Anna Kendrick, who just exudes confidence and smarts and warmth) that he just wants people to stop bullshitting him and tell him straight-up that he’s going to die. It’s a brilliant moment of acting and direction, and it was then that the movie grabbed me by the heart.
“Who the hell is Jonathan Levine? The Wackness? That still-unreleased Mandy Lane horror thing? There was a seriously talented hand guiding this movie, and it’s all the more impressive to learn that Levine was a replacement at the last minute for another filmmaker who apparently left the project over creative differences. Terry Stacey‘s intimate and measured cinematography is stylish but never show-offy, and the editing is sharp as a tack.
“And the soundtrack — I don’t remember a collection of semi-older-pop songs as good as this one. Michael Giacchino‘s score is subtle yet highly effective, and that right there is why 50/50 works as well as it does. It never hammers you over the head with how inherently sad the entire scenario is, and because Levine doesn’t wallow in anything for too long, nothing ever becomes maudlin in the way that lesser movies dealing with this subject have been.
“And still, the best strength of the entire piece is Will Reiser‘s screenplay. While predictable in some respects, he gets so much right in the little details (as this apparently happened to him in some fashion), and for the first time in a long time, I felt that the voices of the thirtysomethings in this film were honest and real depictions of actual people living in the here-and-now. All the lines sounded organic and the frequently colorful (and often times laugh-out-loud-funny) vulgarity was just what friends would say to each other.
“Confusing and stressful interactions with doctors were spot on and tearful and painful discussions with parents are examined (Anjelica Houston nails a few scenes as JGL’s mom). Plus, there’s this great scene where JGL, Rogen, Philip Baker Hall (really good in an uncharacteristic role) and Matt Frewer all get high on medicinal marijuana, and I swear, the way it’s shot and cut — you feel like your getting a contact high. And I loved the bit with JGL walking out of his first chemo session…
“I don’t want to oversell this film but I’m afraid I already have. It’s going to be a tough sell with the general populace I think at the box-office, which is a shame, because it’s the sort of film that totally wins over its audience. I saw the film in a sold-out theater at a free screening sponsored by various websites and radio stations. Mixed demographics and people of all ages. You always worry with free movies as you never know what kind of winners are gonna show up, but with 50/50, nobody spoke, texted, or acted up — everyone was consumed with what they were watching. They laughed in all the right spots, choked up when the moment was right, and quiet during all of the big moments.
“It’s gonna become known as ‘that cancer movie’ but my hope is that the Rogen brand brings people in on opening weekend, because once word gets out, it will be a film that will be impossible not to reccommend to anyone you know. Without spoiling anything, the ending is fair and earned and completely believable. Expectations play a large part in how one reacts to any given film, and I never expected to be as moved as I was by 50/50. I hope that somehow it gains some awards traction because its one of those little movies that deserves everything thrown at it.”
Update: “The screening happened at Rave Cinemas in Manchester, CT — best multiplex in the state. No focus group. They didn’t even give out cards. They had some marketing people from Summit in the lobby asking people what they thought and they were writing things down in journals, I got the pass from www.gofobo.com — very cool, free movies.
I saw friends with benefits this way
“I’m still crying from this film. Everyone was. Very effective filmmaking.”