Cruel odds: 50/50 finds humor in cancer

Young people should not get sick and die. Most of us do eventually, but how sad it is to learn in your 20s that you have a dangerous cancer and your chances of survival are 50/50. How crueler still if the news is delivered by a doctor who seems almost deliberately sadistic. Start with those odds. They may indeed be accurate, but would it kill the son of a bitch to make them 60/40?

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a writer for public radio in Seattle, which makes him almost a poster boy for someone who should grow old and wise. He has a nagging back pain. The oncologist says it is a rare form of cancer of the spine. 50/50 was written by Will Reiser, who himself was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. Seth Rogen, who plays Adam's best friend, Kyle, is a close friend of Reiser in real life, and the movie is based on what happened in their friendship after the diagnosis.

After surgery and treatment, Reiser is currently in the sixth year of remission, and cheerfully observes, "Remission apparently lasts forever ... or until you die." In an interview by Jen Chaney with the two of them in The Washington Post, they joke endlessly, which is perhaps inevitable between a comedy writer and a comic actor, and although 50/50 is structured with the efficiency of a sitcom, there's an undercurrent of truth and real feeling. Full review.

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