I did it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to, but I did. I would have probably chickened out if it hadn’t been for Rocco. And now I’m super glad I did.
I went to see the new movie, 50/50.
Just in case you don’t watch TV, or listen to the radio, or interact with any sort of media of any kind, 50/50 is a cancer flick staring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. It’s based on the screenwriter’s (Will Reiser) real-life diagnosis at the age of 25.
Here’s the preview:
To be fair, I went into the movie with high expectations and hopes. The preview and press all “looked” right, like it wasn’t going to be some creepy Lifetime made-for-TV thing nor some Three Stooges forced comedy thing. But we all know how much a preview can deviate from a movie. So I tried to prepare myself for the flick to suck.
But it didn’t.
In fact, it was pretty wonderful.
For some reason, the adjective that springs to mind is “tasteful.” I don’t know how many people would use the word “tasteful” to describe a movie with no less than seven dick jokes, but I’m doing it anyway. It wasn’t slapstick comedy or demeaning in any way. Or forced. There weren’t any obvious you-know-we-really-need-a-joke-here moments. It was all just very natural and honest.
I think that’s one of the worst parts of cancer…well of any disease really. It’s easy to stop seeing someone as a person and only see them as their sickness, their symptoms. But if a person cracks jokes and likes mambo music before they get sick, they aren’t going to cease to crack jokes and like mambo music when faced with cancer. They’re still the same person. They don’t cease to exist. And I thought 50/50 captured that perfectly. (Spoiler alert: there wasn’t really any mambo music in the movie. I made that up.)
The emotions were breathtaking. Literally. At several points I had to consciously force myself to start breathing again around the giant lump in my throat. When the main character interacted with others…telling them, comforting them, apologizing for his diagnosis…well, it was all very real.
Like the laughs, the emotional scenes didn’t feel forced, either. There was no tear jerking. I didn’t feel manipulated by the film maker. But of course, I still cried. Rocco (my own, personal Seth Rogen) bawled – though he tried to do it quietly. But we cried at very different things. The story was allowed to unfold naturally, leaving each individual participant in the audience to find the parts that most resonated with them – patient or caretaker, family or friend, even just the casual acquaintance.
Because it’s not just for those directly affected by cancer. It’s for anyone affected by life – anyone that’s felt alone, or smothered by a parent, or un-special, or deceived, or treasured, or grateful – anyone that’s ever FELT.
And while the main character in the movie has to face far too much of the ordeal on his own, the most beautiful relationship of the film is the bromance between him and Seth. Again, 50/50 does a wonderful job of letting that speak for itself as it slowly develops and intensifies. There’s no “cheapness” to the depiction. It was just….lovely.
It was everything I want my book to be.
I hope the film does well – for both altruistic and selfish reasons. First, as sad as it may be, more people watch movies than read books. So I’m thrilled there’s a movie that fairly depicts the experience of today’s younger cancer patient. I think it’s so important to be able to laugh in the face of fear – and this movie does just that, in the most beautiful way possible. And selfishly, if it does well at the box office, it shows that there IS a market out there for Lymphomania, and that we as a society CAN talk about death and illness – we just want to do it on our terms.
So go see it. And bring a hanky.