Monday, May 28, 2012

Paragraph Movie Reviews: 50/50

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Even if I hadn't known going in, I wouldn't have been surprised at all, I don't think, to learn that this movie was based on real life, given how heartfelt it feels and how well it mixes mundane events with dramatic and humorous tics to create a compelling story. Will Reiser really did a great job on the script, drawing on his experiences in a way that never feels preachy while also finding ways to stray from autobiography (I have to presume) at the right times for entertainment's sake. There were a few times I felt like the mixing process went a bit askew, pretty much all with Seth Rogen's character and forcing a little too much comedy when I wanted to see human emotions, but there are payoffs to just about all those quibbles that justify them enough for my liking. Rogen was the least interesting character for me, as he was just doing he was usual routine, but honestly, it was refreshing to just like him in a movie again, even if I didn't love him, after my last experience watching his shtick was Funny People. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his superlative self as the young cancer victim at the center of the story, giving an especially unselfish performance where he spends most of his scenes enhancing those around him with his straight man routine for the good of the movie and lending power to the times he explodes; it's tough to do what he does, and he does it better than just about anybody. Anna Kendrick is delightful to watch as his even younger therapist, with a wholly unique quirky charisma and cuteness plus some of the best comic timing you'll see; their chemistry could power the whole film by itself. Anjelica Huston as the concerned and overprotective mother is powerful both in her funny turns and when she tugs at the heartstrings; she's a master. I feel like after The Help I can't ever believe Bryce Dallas Howard as a likable character again, but fortunately that wasn't an issue here. Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall as the Greek chorus of other cancer patients round out a stellar cast working out a fantastic script pulled together and shot beautifully by director Jonathan Levine. I waffled a long time on seeing this one (can a cancer comedy really work?) and am glad I finally went for it.