Walking the fine line between comedy and tragedy is a tricky component of the art of filmmaking. Early reviews of 50/50, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young cancer patient, Anna Kendrick, and Seth Rogen, suggest the film has pulled off this balancing act as well as any other release this year.
“It’s a realistic story, and if you’re going to be realistic, sometimes you’ve got to laugh,” Gordon-Levitt said at last night’s New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre. Hence the abundant sex jokes and robust appreciation of medicinal marijuana, and the non-simulated scene in which the star rather gleefully shaves his head—in other words, 50/50 is not a Lifetime movie. (In one of those coincidences that may or may not mean anything, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore were simultaneously walking the carpet downtown last night for Five, Lifetime’s short-film anthology about women struggling with breast cancer.)
For his role as Gordon-Levitt’s character’s best buddy, Rogen drew on his firsthand experience with cancer survivor Will Reiser, the film’s writer. “I was [Will's] friend before he had cancer, so it would have been a real dick move not to do it,” Rogen joked. “Some people, when bad things happen, they eat or buy something,” he added. “When you’re a comedian, you joke about it. It’s a way of coping.” Usually, a red carpet is the last place in the world you’ll hear a spoiler. But Rogen, turning to Reiser, seemed thrilled to offer one: “He lived!”