Reiser and Seth Rogan are real-life friends and have collaborated on several screenwriting ventures and Rogan reprises his supporting-friend role in this film. The movie focuses on Gordon-Levitt's character of Adam Lerner (loosely based on Reiser's life), a researcher for a Seattle-based public radio station who receives unfortunate news that he has developed a serious tumor in his back at a very young age.
Levine does an excellent job of showing both the serious side of cancer and the hope and joy that comes from having a solid support system. Gordon-Levitt owns this movie and bears the weight of the serious complications that come with a cancer diagnosis. We see him sulk around for most of the film in a believable state of denial and hopelessness. Rogan provides the comic relief that plays well against Gordon-Levitt's sorrow while the super-cute Anna Kendrick (essentially playing the same role she did in Up in the Air) is serviceable as Lerner's therapist / love interest. Rogan seems to keep playing the same slightly-high, frat boy character in every movie. I realize that he has little range as an actor but for once I'd like to see him try something different. While his performance is slightly frustrating, Gordon-Levitt is a revelation and it's hard to believe how far he's come as an actor since moping around on the baseball field in Angels in the Outfield. After three solid performances (including 500 Days of Summer and Inception), he's definitely one of the best young actors in Hollywood right now.
50/50 gets well earned bonus points for a powerhouse final 15 minutes that feature an awesome Total Recall reference, a hilarious line about urination and Pearl Jam's epic Yellow Ledbetter that sounds as the credits roll. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and really did buy the emotional weight that Gordon-Levitt's character carried throughout. The scene where Adam Lerner is about to go into surgery is particularly moving with a solid supporting performance by Angelica Houston as Lerner's mother. This film makes you cherish your own life and does so with some well timed laughs throughout. I definitely recommend seeing this movie and give 50/50 4.5 out of 5 JRs. One of the best movies of 2011 for sure.