October 23, 2016
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen in “50/50” – TIFF 2011

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Our preview of the films we plan to cover at the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival rolls on, and already, I’m cheating a little.

Thanks to the generosity of Summit Entertainment, I managed to see Jonathan Levine’s “50/50” ahead of this year’s TIFF. The studio has been pre-screening the comedy in multiple markets, probably because they know what I’m about to tell you: “50/50” is going to be a hit. Previously dubbed “I’m With Cancer,” the film takes what I believe is one of the most realistic approaches to cancer and cancer treatment you’ll see on screen, but remembers to treat its potentially delicate subject matter with a blunt sense of humor.

Here’s a little more on Levine’s “50/50,” which will be in Toronto this year.


The Plot: Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old editor at NPR in Seattle with a bossy girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), a slacker best friend (Seth Rogen), and cancer. He didn’t know about that last one, and the film centers around how he deals with this life-altering discovery, with the assistance of some new friends (Anna Kendrick, Philip Baker Hall).

The Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall

The Director: Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”)

The Scoop: Long considered to be “the cancer comedy” while in development, Levine’s film manages to be about so much more, thanks to its intelligent script (by Will Reiser, whose personal experiences inform the film) and contributions from a powerful cast. “50/50” defies expectations, managing to be both melodramatic and crudely lighthearted without ever overdosing on either. It has an excellent chance of connecting with a younger audience while also speaking to older crowds who’ve been through some of the struggles expertly portrayed on screen.

Awards Potential: I would like to see “50/50” play itself into the broader awards picture, but we’ll have to see how it plays on the festival circuit. Talk from the pre-screenings around the country has been overwhelmingly positive. I honestly believe Gordon-Levitt has an excellent shot at a Best Actor nomination. His heartwrenching scene with Huston in a hospital (you’ll know it when you see it) should put both talents in the discussion. But I also thoroughly enjoyed Rogen and Kendrick’s supporting turns, and Reiser’s script deserves consideration. I’d say the film’s chances of hanging around during the lengthy awards race are better than 50/50.

“50/50” opens everywhere on Sept. 30. We’ll be covering it extensively from the Toronto International Film Festival.


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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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