Follow TV Tropes


Film / 50/50

Go To

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 Huston) 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:

  • Annoying Patient: On the chemo side, Adam goes along with the physical treatment without question or complaint. On the psychological side, his stoic, withdrawn anger makes therapy difficult throughout the film.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Adam neglects to shave off his eyebrows, which chemotherapy also causes to fall out.
  • 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.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with Kyle’s waiting for Adam in his car in front of Adam’s house.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: As Adam finds out his girlfriend cheated on him, he destroys an abstract painting of hers. Throwing eggs,throwing a knife, throwing a hatchet, cutting it with garden shears... and then he sets it on fire. Kyle cheers him on and helps him.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bros Before Hoes: Kyle takes great pleasure in watching Adam and Rachael break up, calling her out on her awful behavior.
  • Evil Redhead: Rachael is the closest thing to an antagonist. Having a boyfriend on chemo is eventually too much for her. She starts flaking out on him and cheating on him, but stays with him out of guilt. She even shows up later an in attempt to get him back, but he coldly rejects her.
  • Foreshadowing: Adam holds his back when he crosses street during his jogging.
  • 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."
  • Hospital Gurney Scene: Adam is taken off to his surgery on a gurney in a dramatic fashion near the end of the film.
  • Jerk 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.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Rachael tries to manipulate Adam into getting back together with her so that she doesn't feel guilty about cheating on a cancer patient.
    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.
  • Maybe Ever After: The film ends with Adam and Katherine on their presumably first date. Enforced by the filmmakers who refused to film a kiss scene at the orders of the studio.
  • My Beloved Smother: Diane, Adam's mom. She admits to Katherine that she smothers him because she loves him.
  • Parents as People: Diane's a bit of a mess. She's overbearing and possessive, and Adam had clearly been keeping her at arm's length before he ever got sick. But as Katherine points out, Diane has a husband who can't talk to her and a son who won't, and Adam isn't helping her or himself by shutting her out completely. Diane holds it together for the day of Adam's surgery, and when Adam finally loses his composure, she completely banishes her own anxiety to assure Adam that he's going to be ok.
  • Percussive Therapy: When Adam finds out his girlfriend cheated on him, he takes it on her painting. He and Kyle take it out to the garden and start throwing eggs at it, then they throw a knife, then a hatchet and cut it with a huge pair of garden shears. Finally they set it on fire, watch it burn... and then say they actually like it this way better and joke they could hang it somewhere.
  • "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.
  • Scary Science Words: When Adam goes to his first chemo treatment, he starts bonding with some other patients. When he tells them his cancer (Schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma) one of them jokes that the more syllables, the worse it is.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The last line of the movie is Katherine saying "So... now what?" in reference to her date with Adam. Adam simply smiles, because he now has the chance to accomplish everything he thought he wouldn't get to.
  • Tagline: "It takes a pair to beat the odds."
  • Those Two Guys: Alan and Mitch, the other two cancer patients that Adam befriends in chemo until Mitch dies. They are shown together and one could be easily mistaken for the other.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Adam has cancer. The film takes place over several months, and the chemo gradually makes the already thin Adam gaunt and pale, but not immediately.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Alan, the other chemo patient, drops out of the film after the funeral scene. Adam stops going to chemo, so we never find out what happened to him. (A deleted scene reveals that he's heading down to Florida to move in with his daughter. But before he departs, he leaves Adam a bag filled with every tie he's ever worn.)


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: