The movie 50/50 is an important mark in the challenge to cure cancer in our lifetime. 50/50 is the anti-Terms of Endearment. 50/50 is of our time where Terms is of its (1983). In this time there are 12,000,000 cancer survivors in America with chances for recovery better than ever. As Seth Rogen said in an interview, "My friend had cancer but we didn't treat him any differently."
Hope was one of Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer messages. If a cancer survivor / patient rides a bicycle across America then maybe having cancer should be a little less stigmatizing. Meeting hundreds of cancer patients and their friends and families along our 3,000 mile bicycle ride across America we learned a few things that the 50/50 movie team got right:
One Universal Experience
- One Universal Experience
There are 12 million variations on a medical cancer theme, but there is a single universal cancer experience. 50/50 captures cancer's mixed emotions for protagonist Adam, quietly and bravely played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a 25 year old with a threatening and rare cancer. Capturing a cancer patients mental chaos is hard. 50/50 doesn't flinch. 50/50's script could only have been written by a cancer survivor. Loosely based on writer Will Reiser's life and comedy 50/50 understands cancer. 50/50 shows a competent but uncommunicative doctor, an overly worried mother, a deceitful girlfriend and a hilarious and loving best friend. Rogen's Kyle is pitch perfect helping us laugh and cry sometimes in the same scene. Anne Kendrick's Katherine is as beautifully awkward as a not quite minted psychologist can be and almost steals the movie. Here is a great review from Zack Kilmer in the Albany Times
The movie uses its story to make some distinct commentary about and how people deal with one of the worst diseases known to man, and (as cliché as it is) truly makes you think about just how much worse it could be. It takes a realistic approach to the topic of cancer, as life is not all tragedy or comedy, but a blend of both. People deal with terrible things in life by laughing their woe’s away, and Will Reiser’s writing understands and executes this idea with flawless grace. The result is a cinematic experience that is organic the entire 99 minutes.
Cancer plays pinball with emotions, feelings and time. Emotions bounce through depression, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance sometimes all in the same minute and a half. Cancer rarely happens to a single person. 50/50 surrounds Adam with a kind but absent father (due to Alzheimer's), Anjelica Houston's universally worried mother and a best friend who communicates the way men communicate - poorly, secretly but lovingly.
"No way," would have been my response if you'd ask if anyone could capture cancer's strange chaotic rhythms in a mainstream Hollywood movie. 50/50 captures every bit of cancer's strange journey. If you are reading this thinking, "I never want to see that," I'm doing a bad job. Chances of your facing a cancer challenge are 1 in 2 if you are a man and 1 in 3 if you are a woman. Even if you never face cancer, and I hope you don't, someone you love, know or care about will. 50/50 is important medicine because it isn't medicinal.
There is little about cancer that fits any cliché, yet most movies can't help but go there. How many times will we see the dying woman (Terms of Endearment, Love Story), the bucket list frenzy (Bucket List) or the tear jerking last words (Brian's Song, Bang The Drum Slowly) before we see the damage? Inside every pre-50/50 cancer movie is a not so hidden message. Cancer can't be beaten. Cancer is a death sentence. 50/50 takes a more true to our current life approach saying cancer is tough but there are options. The scarlet C isn't so red after 50/50. How can 12 million cancer patients say an adequate thank you?
Yes cancer patients die. Yes cancer patients must undergo Elizabethan chemical horrors, but cancer patients also live longer, have more medical options and can win. Cancer isn't as an immediate death sentence as it used to be. Next year cancer will be less threatening than this and so on until we cure cancer or make it a chronic pain in the you-know-where. 50/50 embraces, celebrates and shares where we are NOW and foreshadows the beautiful road ahead. 50/50 speaks to the day we cure cancer.
The first step in curing cancer is believing we can. Researchers believe they can these days. People who provided my cancer care believe they can. Doctors believe they can and now, thanks to 50/50, many more will understand we are close. We stand close to curing cancer in our lifetime. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), my cancer, was cured in 3 very sick patients at the University of Pennsylvania a few months ago. "Don't let your hopes get raised too fast," a friend said after I shared the UPenn news. Nonsense, hope is what we have. Hope is all there is and, as 50/50 so accurately shares, hope grows minute by minute, hour by hour and day by glorious day.
Thanks to Seth, Will, Joseph, Anne, Anjelica and everyone who worked on, funded or helped create 50/50. Your creativity, art and hope will cure cancer.
Founder, Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer
Founder, Cure Cancer Store (Launching 1.2012, now on Facebook)