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Film / 50/50

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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 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:

  • Adorkable: Katherine, who's very sweet but still very new at her job. It also helps that she's played by Anna Kendrick.
  • 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 Played straight on the psychological side, as his stoic, withdrawn anger makes therapy difficult throughout the film.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Adam neglects to shave off his eyebrows, which chemotherapy also causes to fall out. To be fair, this oversight is so common that very few people would ever notice and point it out to him.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: When the aspect ratio briefly changes while destroying the painting.
  • 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.
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  • Bookend: The film begins and ends with Kyle’s waiting for Adam in his car in front of Adam’s house.
  • Bros Before Hoes: Kyle takes great pleasure in watching Adam and Rachael break up, calling her out on her awful behavior.
  • California Doubling: Vancouver becomes Seattle. An 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."
  • Character Tics: Adam's nail-biting.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Adam
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I Got You a Drawer
  • 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.
  • 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: Rachael can be seen as one of these, trying 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: Anjelica Huston's character. She admits to Katherine that she smothers him because she loves him.
  • "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 Swears-a-Lot: Kyle.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Straw Misogynist: Kyle has shades of this, although his objectification problems are Played for Laughs , mostly.
  • 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
  • Watch It Stoned: Played straight. During his first session of chemo, Adam's fellow cancer sufferers pass him a tray of pot macaroons.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Example of: