50/50 (2011 film)

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50 50 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Levine
Written byWill Reiser
Produced by
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byZene Baker
Music byMichael Giacchino
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 12, 2011 (2011-09-12) (TIFF)
  • September 30, 2011 (2011-09-30) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[3][4]
Box office$41.1 million[4]

50/50 is a 2011 American comedy-drama film directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Will Reiser, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anjelica Huston. The film is loosely inspired by Reiser's own experience with cancer, with Rogen's character Kyle based on Rogen himself. It was filmed from February to March 2010. 50/50 was released on September 30, 2011, and grossed $41 million. It received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Gordon-Levitt's performance and Reiser's screenplay.[5]


Mild-mannered Adam Lerner is a 27-year-old public radio journalist in Seattle. His best friend Kyle, who is rather crude, disapproves of his girlfriend Rachael, an artist. After experiencing strong pain in his back, Adam is diagnosed with schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor in his spine, and must undergo chemotherapy. He sees on the Internet that the survival rate for his diagnosis is 50/50. After Adam reveals this, his emotional mother Diane, who nurses her Alzheimer's-stricken husband Richard, offers to care for him, but Adam declines as Rachael has already promised to do so.

At one of his treatments, Adam meets Mitch and Alan, two older cancer patients also undergoing chemo, and they become friends. Rachael is uncomfortable during his treatments and is often late picking him up. She also gets him a retired racing greyhound named Skeletor as a pet. Throughout Adam's struggle, Kyle attempts to keep up his morale, helping Adam shave his head and openly using his friend's illness to pick up women. While on a date, Kyle sees Rachael kissing another man at a gallery and later forces her to confess her infidelity to Adam, who breaks up with her. He follows Kyle's suggestion and they use his illness to pick up two women at a bar.

Meanwhile, Adam is being treated by a young, inexperienced therapist, Katherine McKay, a PhD candidate doing the clinical aspect of her thesis at the hospital. While their relationship and sessions begin unevenly, he slowly begins to open up to her. After she drives him home after a chemo session, they develop a rapport, blurring their professional and personal relationship. She helps Adam understand his mother's situation: loved ones can feel just as much stress as the patient, which helps Adam repair the rift between him and his mother.

When Mitch dies, Adam's mortality hits him, and shortly thereafter he is informed that he needs to undergo risky surgery. The night before the operation, Adam argues with an intoxicated Kyle, demanding that he let him drive his car even though he has never learned and has no driver's license. After a near miss, Adam breaks down, berating Kyle for seemingly not taking his condition seriously and using it for his own gain. Adam then calls Katherine and tells her he wishes she was his girlfriend, but he also says he is tired and just wants his cancer to be over. That night, dropping off Kyle (who was too drunk to drive), Adam finds the book Facing Cancer Together from their trip to a bookstore where Kyle picked up a shop clerk. The book is filled with notes, highlighted paragraphs and turned-down pages. He realizes that Kyle sincerely cares about him and has been earnestly trying to help him since his diagnosis.

The next day, Kyle drops Adam off at the hospital, where Adam embraces him for being a good friend and apologizes for the previous night. After saying his farewells to family, he undergoes the surgery. During the wait, Katherine goes to the waiting room and inadvertently meets Adam's parents and Kyle. After the surgery, they are told that although the bone degradation was worse than they believed, the tumor was removed successfully and Adam will recover. Some time later, he is preparing for a date with Katherine, while Kyle encourages him and bandages the incision on his back. The doorbell rings and Adam lets Katherine in. After Kyle leaves, Katherine asks, "Now what?" and Adam smiles, finally free of the cancer.


Development and production[edit]

The screenplay is loosely based on the experience of screenwriter Will Reiser, friend of the film's co-lead, Seth Rogen.[6] Reiser is also close with Evan Goldberg of Da Ali G Show. The film was going to be called I'm with Cancer before it was announced that this was a working title. The film was later renamed Live with It and then 50/50.[7]

James McAvoy was going to play the lead role before he left the film due to personal reasons, as he was afraid of missing the birth of his first child, and was replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.[8]

Principal photography was scheduled from February 22, 2010, to March 31, 2010.[citation needed]

The head-shaving scene in the film was featured on the movie posters and commercials. At the 50/50 premiere in New York, Gordon-Levitt said, "We only had one take because you can't shave your head twice."[9] Rogen recalled, "It was the first day of filming, and we improvised the whole thing, which is not wise when it's something you have one take for, but it turned out funny."[9]


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 93% of 200 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's consensus reads, "A good-hearted film about a difficult topic, 50/50 maneuvers between jokes and drama with surprising finesse."[10] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score, gives the film a score of 72 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

Sean Burns wrote in the Philadelphia Weekly that Levine "knows how to stay out of the way long enough to let a very talented cast shine, and Rogen's fundamental, unexpected decency, which can often only be expressed through shoulder-punching obscenities, grows more quietly moving as the picture wears on."[12]

David Schmader, writing in the Stranger, praises "'50/50's stellar cast, from the omnipresent lead Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whose Rankin/Bass puppet face is put to beautifully nuanced use) to the all-star supporting cast: Anjelica Huston roars back to prominence with a twisty performance as Adam's barely contained mess of a mom, and Anna Kendrick's young doctoral student makes the film's rom-com aspirations not-ridiculous with her intelligent spontaneity and cute smile. But the comedy star is Seth Rogen, cast in the same role he played in screenwriter Reiser's life."[13]


The film was nominated for two awards at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. Gordon-Levitt received a nomination for Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).[14]

Seth Rogen addressed the film's lack of an Academy Award nomination in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying he predicted that it wouldn't be nominated, saying that he knew for a fact that "some people are appalled by the movie." He said of this, "I think it must be people who have very, very personal connections to the subject matter and just can't emotionally disconnect from their own experience. I respect that. But what we found for the most part is that people like to laugh at tragedy. It makes them feel better."[15]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film was included in the following top ten lists for the best films of 2011:

Publication Rank
The Arizona Republic 3[16]
Boxoffice 7[17]
MTV 8[18]
Daily News 9[19]
New York Post 10[20]
/Film 5[21]
Tampa Bay Times 5[22]
TV Guide 8[23]
USA Today N/A[24]

Home media[edit]

50/50 was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in North America on January 24, 2012.[25] Both releases include commentary, deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes videos.[citation needed]


No official soundtrack was released; however, a number of pop songs appear in the film, such as:


  1. ^ Kaufman, Anthony (13 September 2011). "50/50". Screen Daily. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  2. ^ "'50/50' (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2011-08-26. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  3. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 29, 2011). "Movie Projector: Holdovers likely to beat '50/50,' 'Dream House'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  4. ^ a b 50/50 at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ Powers, Lindsey (September 30, 2011). "'50/50:' What the Critics Are Saying About Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's New Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  6. ^ Gordon-Levitt, Reiser Tackle '50/50' Odds. Fresh Air (Radio broadcast). NPR. September 9, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  7. ^ Stewart, Andrew (February 17, 2011). "Summit firms date, title for Seth Rogen dramedy". Variety. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  8. ^ "Joseph Gordon-Levitt Replaces James McAvoy In I'm With Cancer". CinemaBlend.com. March 2, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Wilkinson, Amy (September 29, 2011). "Seth Rogen Says '50/50' Head-Shaving Scene Was Improvised". MTV. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  10. ^ 50/50 at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ 50/50 at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  12. ^ Burns, Sean (September 28, 2011). "'50/50' Makes Dying a Laughing Matter". Philadelphia Weekly. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Levine's '50/50'". MUBI.com. September 29, 2011.
  14. ^ EOL Staff (December 15, 2011). "Complete List of Nominations for 69th Annual Golden Globes". E! Online. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
  15. ^ Christian Blauvelt (2012-01-25). "Seth Rogen predicted '50/50' Oscar snub". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2013-10-10.
  16. ^ Goodykoontz, Bill. "The 10 best movies of 2011". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  17. ^ Erbland, Kate. "Boxoffice's Critics Pick the Best Films of 2011". Boxoffice. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  18. ^ "Best Movies Of 2011". MTV. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  19. ^ Neumaier, Joe. "'Tree of Life' or 'The Artist'? 'Hugo' or 'The Descendant'? Critics duel over best movies of 2011 list". Daily News. New York. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  20. ^ Smith, Kyle. "Kyle Smith's best movies of the year". New York Post. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  21. ^ Chen, David. "Dave's Top 10 Movies of 2011". /Film. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  22. ^ Persall, Steve. "2011 was bright year in filmmaking for Tampa Bay". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  23. ^ "The Best Movies of 2011". TV Guide. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  24. ^ Puig, Claudia. "USA TODAY movie critic Claudia Puig's top 10 movies for 2011". USA Today. Archived from the original on January 9, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  25. ^ "50/50 Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved September 11, 2012.

External links[edit]