50/50 (2011 film)

50/50 is a 2011 American black 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, and received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Gordon-Levitt's performance and Reiser's screenplay.[4]

50 50 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Levine
Produced by
Written byWill Reiser
Music byMichael Giacchino
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byZene Baker
Distributed bySummit Entertainment
Release date
  • September 12, 2011 (2011-09-12) (TIFF)
  • September 30, 2011 (2011-09-30) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[2][3]
Box office$41.1 million[3]


Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old public radio journalist in Seattle with girlfriend and artist Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), of whom best friend and co-worker Kyle (Seth Rogen) disapproves. While Kyle is arrogant and fiery, Adam is more friendly and shy.

After experiencing strong pains in his back, Adam is diagnosed with schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, a malignant 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 mother Diane, who nurses her Alzheimer's-stricken husband Richard, offers to care for him. Adam declines as Rachael has already promised to do so.

While at one of his treatments, Adam meets Mitch and Alan, two older cancer patients also undergoing chemotherapy, and they become friends. Rachael is uncomfortable during his treatments and is often late to pick him up. She also gets him a retired racing greyhound as a pet, named Skeletor. Throughout Adam's struggle, Kyle attempts to maintain his morale, helping Adam shave his head and openly using his illness to pick up women. While on a date, Kyle sees Rachael with another man at a gallery and takes a photo, later forcing her to confess to infidelity by showing it to Adam, who breaks up with her. He starts to follow Kyle's advice, using his illness to successfully pick up two women at a bar.

Meanwhile, Adam is being treated by a young, inexperienced therapist, Katherine McKay (Anna Kendrick), 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 one of his chemo sessions, the two develop a rapport, blurring their professional and personal relationship. She helps Adam understand his mother's situation and that even loved ones feel just as much stress as the patient, which helps Adam repair the rift between him and his mother.

After Mitch dies, Adam's fear of his potential death and future surface as he is subsequently informed that he needs to undergo surgery. The night before, Adam argues with an intoxicated Kyle, demanding that he drive even though he cannot. After a near miss, Adam breaks down and berates Kyle for seemingly not taking his condition seriously and using it for his own gain. Adam calls Katherine and tells her that he wishes she was his girlfriend, but also says he is tired and just wants his cancer to be over. That night, Adam stays at Kyle's and finds a book entitled Facing Cancer Together from their first trip to a bookstore where Kyle picked up the shop clerk—filled with notes, highlighted paragraphs and turned-down pages. He realizes that Kyle sincerely cares and has been simply continuing to treat him the same since his diagnosis.

The next day, Kyle drops Adam off, who embraces Kyle for being a good friend and apologizes for the previous night. After Adam says his farewells to family, he undergoes the surgery. During the wait, Katherine goes to the waiting room and inadvertently meets Adam's family and Kyle. After the surgery, Kyle, Diane, and Katherine are told that although the bone degradation was worse than they had thought, the tumor was removed successfully, and that Adam will recover. Some time later, Adam is getting ready for a date with Katherine, while Kyle encourages him and cleans the incision on Adam's back from the surgery. The doorbell rings and Adam lets Katherine inside. After Kyle leaves, Katherine asks, "Now what?," and Adam simply smiles—at last being free of cancer.


Development and productionEdit

The screenplay is loosely based on the experience of screenwriter Will Reiser, friend of the film's co-lead, Seth Rogen.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

Principal photography was scheduled from February 22, 2010, to March 31, 2010.[8] The film was mostly filmed in Richmond and Vancouver, British Columbia as well as Seattle, Washington.[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 responseEdit

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 93%, based on 198 reviews, with an average rating of 7.65/10. The site's critical 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]

Some fans[who?] of the film were surprised at the film's lack of an Academy Award nomination. Seth Rogen addressed this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying he predicted that it wouldn't be nominated, saying that he knows 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 listsEdit

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 mediaEdit

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 several songs appear in the film, such as:


  1. ^ "'50/50' (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2011-08-26. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 29, 2011). "Movie Projector: Holdovers likely to beat '50/50,' 'Dream House'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  3. ^ a b 50/50 at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Gordon-Levitt, Reiser Tackle '50/50' Odds. Fresh Air (Radio broadcast). NPR. September 9, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  6. ^ Stewart, Andrew (February 17, 2011). "Summit firms date, title for Seth Rogen dramedy". Variety. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  7. ^ "Joseph Gordon-Levitt Replaces James McAvoy In I'm With Cancer". CinemaBlend.com. March 2, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  8. ^ 50/50 at IMDb
  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
  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. 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 linksEdit