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50/50 (2011 film)

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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 positive reviews, with particular praise for Gordon-Levitt's performance and Reiser's screenplay.[5] At the Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for the Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, as well as a Best Actor nomination for Gordon-Levitt.



Mild-mannered Adam Lerner is a 27-year-old public radio journalist in Seattle. His loyal but immature best friend Kyle disapproves of his girlfriend Rachael, an artist. After experiencing severe pains 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, bonding through cannabis-laced macaroons. 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 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 Ph.D. candidate doing the clinical aspect of her thesis at the hospital. While their relationship and sessions begin unevenly, he slowly opens up to her. After she drives him home following 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 allows Adam to repair the rift between him and his mother.

When Mitch dies, Adam's mortality hits him, causing him to lash out at Katherine verbally, and shortly after, he is informed that he needs to undergo a 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 and accuses Kyle of being more concerned with using the cancer for his own gain than taking his condition seriously. Adam then calls Katherine and tells her he wishes she was his girlfriend, but he also says he is tired of being sick and 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 earnestly tried 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 tearful farewells to his family, he undergoes surgery. Katherine goes to the waiting room and inadvertently meets Adam's parents and Kyle during the wait. After the surgery, they are told that although the bone degradation was worse than they believed, the surgeons removed the tumor successfully, and Adam will recover. Sometime later, he prepares for a date with Katherine while Kyle encourages him and bandages the incision on his back. After Kyle leaves, Katherine asks, "Now what?" and Adam smiles, finally free of cancer.







The screenplay is loosely based on the experience of screenwriter Will Reiser, friend of the film's co-lead, Seth Rogen.[6][7] Reiser is also close with Evan Goldberg of Da Ali G Show. The title of Reiser’s script was I'm with Cancer, but executives at Summit Entertainment changed the title of the film so as not to alienate audiences from the film’s subject matter.[8] The film was later renamed Live with It and then 50/50.[9]

James McAvoy was going to play the lead role before he left the film for personal reasons, as he was afraid of missing the birth of his first child, and was replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.[10][7]



Principal photography took place in Vancouver over a five-week period, beginning in March 2010.[11][12]

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."[13][7] 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."[13]



Critical response


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."[14] 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".[15]

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."[16] Nicole Sperling of the Los Angeles Times commented, "With its union of humor and pathos, '50/50' offers audiences both a more sophisticated take on the typical Hollywood bromance, yet enough bawdy humor to lure in Rogen fans adverse to a film with cancer as its core."[7] Cam Williams of SBS also praised the film’s depiction of male friendship, describing it as counter to the "toxic masculinity inherent in so much modern filmmaking."[17]

David Schmader, writing in The Stranger, praised "'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."[18]



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).[19]

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."[20]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards 20 January 2012 Best Comedy 50/50 Nominated [21]
Aspen Filmfest 25 September 2011 Audience Favorite Feature Won [22]
Awards Circuit Community Awards 2011 Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [23]
Honorable Mentions 50/50 Nominated
Casting Society of America Awards 29 October 2012 Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Feature - Studio or Independent Comedy Francine Maisler Nominated [24]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 12 January 2012 Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [25]
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards 16 December 2011 Best Picture 50/50 Nominated [26]
Detroit Film Critics Society 16 December 2011 Best Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [27]
Dorian Awards 16 January 2012 Unsung Film of the Year 50/50 Won [28]
Independent Spirit Awards 25 February 2012 Best First Screenplay Will Reiser Won [29]
Best Feature 50/50 Nominated
Best Supporting Female Anjelica Huston Nominated
Georgia Film Critics Association 17 January 2012 Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [30]
Gold Derby Awards 25 February 2012 Original Screenplay Nominated [31]
Golden Globe Awards 15 January 2012 Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nominated [32]
Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical 50/50 Nominated
Golden Schmoes Awards 24 February 2012 Best Screenplay of the Year Will Reiser Won [33]
Most Underrated Movie of the Year 50/50 Nominated
Best Comedy of the Year Nominated
Best Actor of the Year Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards 31 May 2012 Best Graphics in a TV Spot 50/50 Nominated [34]
Hollywood Film Awards 24 October 2011 Breakthrough Actor Award Joseph Gordon-Levitt Won [35]
Houston Film Critics Society 14 December 2011 Best Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [36]
IGN Best of 2011 12 January 2012 Best Movie Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nominated [37]
Best Comedy Movie 50/50 Nominated [38]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards 17 December 2011 Best Picture 7th place [39]
MTV Movie Awards 3 June 2012 Best Male Performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nominated [40]
National Board of Review 1 December 2011 Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Won [41]
Top Ten Independent Films 50/50 Won
Online Film Critics Society 2 January 2012 Best First Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [42]
San Diego Film Critics Society 14 December 2011 Best Original Screenplay Nominated [43]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association 19 December 2011 Best Original Screenplay Runner-up [44]
Stockholm International Film Festival 20 November 2011 Audience Award 50/50 Won [45]
Torino Film Festival 3 December 2011 Best Feature Film Nominated [46]
Achille Valdata Audience Award Won
Utah Film Critics Association Awards 21 December 2011 Best Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt Won [47]
Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Won
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association 5 December 2011 Best Original Screenplay Won [48]
Women Film Critics Circle Awards 19 December 2011 Best Male Images in a Movie 50/50 Nominated [49]
Writers Guild of America Awards 19 February 2012 Best Original Screenplay Will Reiser Nominated [50]

Top ten lists


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

Publication Rank
The Arizona Republic 3[51]
Boxoffice 7[52]
MTV 8[53]
Daily News 9[54]
/Film 5[55]
Tampa Bay Times 5[56]
USA Today N/A[57]

Home media


50/50 was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in North America on January 24, 2012.[58] Both releases include commentary, deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes videos.[59]



No official soundtrack was released; however, a number of pop songs appear in the film, such as:[60]


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