FILM - WHEN 27-year-old journalist Adam Lerner is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer, he is given a 50/50 chance of survival and opinion on the success of the film about his story, too, is divided.
One critic in particular spat vitriol at the very thought of professional goofball Seth Rogan playing Lerner’s buddy in a somewhat oxymoronic comedy about cancer.
Most others, though — among them those who have been closer to cancer than anyone really wants to be — reckon it’s a hit.
And that’s why the East Cape branch of cancer support agency CanTeen has chosen to screen the film to launch its fundraising Bandanna Challenge for 2012 (September 14-30).
Being an R-rated comedy, the film is a little outside the range of many of CanTeen’s own membership, which is made up of young people (13-24) living with the effects of cancer.
However, local branch youth worker Lianne Jenkins said it was appropriate in its honest approach to its subject.
Released last year, 50/50 was written by Will Reiser and is loosely inspired by his own experience with cancer.
A combination of comedy and drama, the film follows Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on his journey through illness, upon which he is accompanied by his crude best mate (Rogan), his overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) and his long-time girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard).
Of course it looks at cancer in the modern age — when a doctor’s wordy diagnosis confuses Lerner, for example, he just goes home and Googles it.
But, more importantly, it looks at the experiences of one individual on a human level. No, Lerner’s friends and family don’t immediately turn into saints when his diagnosis comes in. No, Lerner doesn’t feel he has to take everything that happens to him with Hollywood good humour. And, no, the film doesn’t chirpily ignore the elephant in the room . . . this is a very, very serious disease.
Overall, critics say, the makers of 50/50 were smart enough to recognise that the cancer experience is both universally relatable and incredibly specific, “and it nails both sides of the equation”.
Writing a blog for the New York Times, oncology nurse Theresa Brown said she wasn’t sure that she wanted to see a film about cancer . . . “after all, I see it often enough in real life”.
But she was glad that she did.
“What I liked about this movie is that it didn’t give cancer the Hollywood treatment,” Brown said.
“One of the messages was that while cancer certainly is life-changing, it doesn’t necessarily change your life. The filmmakers also manage to capture the fear that the word ‘cancer’ can instill in people. And throughout the movie the healthcare workers aren’t perfect, either.”
All proceeds from next week’s screening of 50/50 go to support members of the local branch of CanTeen.
“We know it will be a great night,” Lianne Jenkins said. “And we hope that people enjoy the movie, which is a pretty honest reflection of a young person’s cancer journey.”
■ 50/50 will be on at the Dome Cinema next Tuesday, September 18 (6.30pm). Tickets at Staple, at the door or via firstname.lastname@example.org.