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50/50 is a 2011 comedic drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man battling cancer.
Adam Lerner, a Seattle twentysomething who doesn't smoke or drive, goes to the doctor about a persistent back pain. It turns out to be a rare form of cancer, and Adam is immediately put into chemotherapy. The film shows how he deals with the disease, focusing in particular on the relationships he has with various people in his life. These include his detached girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), his loyal but excessively laddish best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), novice therapist Katie (Anna Kendrick), needy and protective mother (Anjelica Houston) and a group of fellow cancer sufferers with whom he has a sort of support group.
The film was based on the life of the screenwriter, Will Reiser, of whom Rogen has long been a close friend. Thus, Rogen's role in the film was essentially a reenactment of what he did for Reiser.
The following tropes appear in 50/50:
- Actor Allusion: Naturally, since Rogen is playing himself by a different name. The scene in which Kyle applies antibiotics to Adam's scar, in particular, was taken directly from real life.
- Based on the stories told by Mitch, Mitch's wife expected Adam to be much older. Kyle jokes that he is really old but just looks young, sort of like Joseph Gordon Levitt's character on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
- Annoying Patient: Subverted it on the chemo side, as Adam goes along with the physical treatment without question or complaint. Played straight on the psychological side, as his stoic, withdrawn anger makes therapy difficult throughout the film.
- Black Comedy: In a film about cancer, this one is inevitable.
- Special mention goes to the scene where Adam walks through a hospital corridor after his first chemo, high as a kite on weed, laughing at the cheesy murals and a clearly not empty body bag.
- Bros Before Hoes: Kyle takes great pleasure in watching Adam and Rachael break up, calling her out on her awful behavior.
- Deadpan Snarker: Adam
- Dyeing for Your Art: Joseph Gordon-Levitt really did shave his head on camera.
- Evil Redhead: Rachael is a passive-aggressive version of this:
- She waits in the car while Adam goes to get chemo.
- On one occasion, she forgets to pick him up.
- She cheats on him with a white guy with dreadlocks.
- To top it all off, Adam told Rachael that she could leave him beforehand.
- A Friend in Need: Kyle is an exemplar of this trope.
- Friendship Moment: Adam gets annoyed with Kyle's attitude near the end of the film. But while waiting to go into a final, roll-the-dice surgery, he visits Kyle's house. In the bathroom, bookmarked and dog-eared, he finds a self-help book entitled "Facing Cancer Together."
- Friend Versus Lover: Kyle hates Rachael, even gloating while she admits cheating on Adam.
- Hospital Gurney Scene: Obviously used as Adam is taken off to his surgery near the end of the film.
- Hospital Hottie: Katherine qualifies as one of these.
- Jerkass With a Heart of Gold: Despite Kyle's boorishness, he's shown to have been reading books on how to help a loved one fight cancer by the end of the film.
- Lethal Diagnosis: Averted. The film takes place over several months, and the chemo gradually makes the already thin Adam gaunt and pale, but not immediately.
- Mama Bear: Angelica Houston goes into this mode, both to try to care for Adam and to try to get him to open up to her.
- Manipulative Bitch: After leaving him, Adam's girlfriend, Rachael, comes back to get her stuff and plays this part. It doesn't work.
Adam: You should go.
Rachael: [Kissing him] I don't want to go. I want to stay here with you.
Adam: No, seriously... you need to get the fuck off my porch.
- Also a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Adam.
- NPR: Adam works at a local affiliate, developing a story about a local volcano. It becomes a case "I Have to Finish This Before I Die."
- My Beloved Smother: Anjelica Huston's character.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Adam has a nervous breakdown and angrily tells Kyle off, telling him that he's nothing but a selfish jerk who's cares more about scoring with women than for his friend.
- Relationship Sabotage: An interesting case of self-sabotage in Rachael's case. She doesn't take Adam's escape offer when he gets diagnosed, but she's clearly not prepared for the reality of chemo. Subsequently, she treats him poorly, even cheating on him, perhaps in an effort to get him to push her away. Eventually, she's found out and Adam dumps her.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Both played straight and averted. Kyle is not present during the more somber moments of the film until the scenes leading up to Adam's surgery.
- Sir Swearsalot: Kyle.
- Stoner Flick: Given the amount of weed Adam eats and smokes, the movie almost qualifies for this, particularly as Kyle does most of the smoking!
- Tagline: "It takes a pair to beat the odds."
- Vancouver Doubling: Vancouver becomes Seattle. A ad for Lotto 6/49, one of Canada's national lotteries, is seen, shattering the illusion for those who know.
- The film's opening 2 minutes contain shots of the Lionsgate Bridge, Vancouver Lookout, VFS, and Stanley Park.
- Amusingly, one of the things Adam regrets before his life-threatening surgery is that he's "never been to Canada."
- Watch It Stoned: Played straight. During his first session of chemo, Adam's fellow cancer sufferers pass him a tray of pot macaroons.
- Write Who You Know: Will Reiser based the main characters off of himself and his friend Seth Rogen. So basically, Rogen is playing himself.
- Your Cheating Heart: While Adam goes through chemotherapy, his girlfriend, Rachael, has a one-night stand with an artist from her gallery show. His friend Kyle sees them kiss and snaps a quick photo as evidence.