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Member Name: walsha11
Date: 20/08/12, updated on 20/08/12 (33 review reads)
Advantages: plot, focus, characters, acting, JGL, pertinent topic, touching, authentic
Disadvantages: potentially offensive humour
The film was released in 2011 and was written by Will Reiser who based the script loosely on his own experience with cancer. I think this is probably what is most striking about the film, it feels honest, candid, tangible and authentic - it really doesn't surprise me that there is personal experience written in to the screenplay because you can see that in the writing and acting.
Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27 year old radio journalist. He has a live-in girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is an artist and a massive bitch (this is apparent within the first scene). Adam has been suffering from back pain and after a few visits to the doctor he is told her had schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma (essentially cancer of the spine) and that he must undergo chemotherapy. His best friend and colleague Kyle (Seth Rogen) is initially distraught but hopeful when told the odds of survival are 50/50. Adam also reluctantly tells his overbearing mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), who cares for husband who has dementia.
Adam offers Rachael the chance to leave but she says she will stay with him and care for him, though she does a shockingly bad job of this. Rachael refuses to go to the chemotherapy sessions with Adam and after failing to pick him up after one session their relationship begins to deteriorate. Kyle catches her kissing another guy and confronts her and Adam with the material, which she conveniently tries to displace by suggesting they had problems before the cancer. The couple break up and Kyle tries to help Adam use his cancer to pick up women.
Meanwhile Adam begins counselling with an inexperienced but keen therapist called Katherine (Anna Kendrick). Adam is sceptical of the benefits of therapy and insists he is fine, despite everything slowly unravelling in his personal life. The pair get off to a difficult start but begin to form a firm friendship as they share their thoughts honestly with one another. I don't want to spoil the ending of the movie for you so I won't go any further, my advice would be to watch it as the ending unfolds in a really interesting way.
What I like about this film is that at no point does it try to sugar coat this terrible, terrible disease. It does, however, make light of what is a horrible and unfortunate situation. I found the portrayal of the medical staff to be a particularly funny and yet saddening element. The doctor who gives Adam his diagnosis is stoic, unemotional and completely numb to what he is telling Adam. This is horrible and yet poignant to watch. There are also people like Rachael, Adam's girlfriend, who fail to be there for him in the way that he needs and who ultimately let him down in a big way. In contrast though we also see the positive side of this illness. Katherine, Adam's therapist, goes above and beyond the duty of the job and truly cares for his well being and hopes to make a difference in his life. Kyle, Adam's friend, also provides light relief and entertainment which are much needed during the horrible chemotherapy that he goes through.
Just like the title of the film I think the sad and poignant elements are tempered brilliantly by the funny and touching moments. We get just enough of each as an audience to be touched and saddened but also uplifted by the storyline and by Adam's defiance in the face of terrible affliction. I also think the acting is just brilliant. It isn't at any point overdone, it's subtle and quiet and really truly affecting. Obviously Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazing, and super hot (weirdly more so with no hair) - but I also think Seth Rogen manages to achieve more of an understated comedy than other films he has been in. Anna Kendrick, who I think is great, manages to embody the character of Katherine and bring a real vulnerability and sensitivity to the role.
The film has a pretty good soundtrack which also adds to and enhances the film but not in an overbearing way at all. It feels very modern, contemporary and appropriate for the age of the characters and just adds another cool element to this already great film.
I think I paid £8.00 for this in HMV which isn't all that bad for a new release. I've enjoyed watching this a couple of times since I bought it and would happily show/lend/recommend it to anyone I know. I think it deals with very important and pertinent issues but in a wholly new and refreshing way. It's sensitive, funny, heart-warming and dark - pretty much all the things I look for in a film.
My only slight reservation would be that the focus of the film is quite heavy, and may well be a sensitive topic for some. I personally feel like it has been handled in a very sensitive, relevant and reverent way but obviously this is personal opinion and for others the jokes may be interpreted as insensitive.
An interesting perspective on a horrible disease.
Summary: A touching and realistic portrayal of a young cancer sufferer.