50/50: Cancer Isn't Funny But Life Is 

BW chats up Rogen about his new film

Twice I tried not to watch 50/50. But I was an idiot.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, while reviewing the list of more than 300 screenings, I asked a critic what 50/50 was about. His answer was simple.

“Oh, that’s the comedy about cancer,” he said with accompanied rolling eyes. I opted for another screening, but the film was delayed. I went into another theater but that movie was full. I reluctantly walked into 50/50. And I loved every minute of it.

This is what you need to know about 50/50:

1. It’s funny, very funny.

2. It’s emotional but never maudlin.

3. Yes, it’s about cancer.

50/50, with a fabulous performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer), tells the true story of two 20-something friends, one of whom finds out he has a rare type of cancer in his spine and has only a 50/50 chance of survival. Together the pair define friendship—not in a typical Hollywood fashion but in a beautiful, hilarious partnership.

One of the early scenes, sure to become a classic, involves Levitt’s character shaving his head while his buddy, Seth Rogen, offers encouragement in one breath and horror in the next.

“We improvised a lot of dialogue in that scene,” Rogen told BW following the world premiere at TIFF. “Which is pretty fucking stupid, but we did it. We wanted it to feel real. And it was great how we did it. It felt totally real.”

Rogen co-wrote the story with Will Reiser, whose real-life battle with cancer was the inspiration.

Rogen said he and Reiser would sometimes inappropriately exploit the disease. For instance, when they were waiting in a long line to see Batman Begins in 2005.

“I walked up to the box office and said, ‘My friend just got cancer, and he just had surgery.' We got in free and cut the line.” Rogen erupted into a huge, now-famous, belly laugh.

It was tough not laughing along with him. Especially considering that Reiser was sitting right next to Rogen laughing his fool head off. He has since fully recovered.

What can I say? Cancer isn’t funny. Life is funny. And 50/50 is about life and its cruel jokes.

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50/50
Rated NR · 2011
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Marie Avgeropoulos, Julia Benson and Philip Baker Hall

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