Here was the review I was going to write, but didn’t:
Apparently, among movie go-ers there is an unquenchable thirst for movies about Seth Rogan nurturing a friend through a serious medical condition. The actual condition varies (and they get more complicated, from Katherine Heigl’s pregnancy in Knocked Up, through Adam Sandler’s acute myeloid leukemia in Funny People, and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s neurofibrosarcomatic schwannoma in 50/50) but the scenes are as formalized and choreographed as kabuki or porn:
- The friend informs Rogan of the condition; Rogan reacts with disbelief, and then sympathy and unflagging good humor.
- Rogan accompanies the friend to visit humorless, heartless medical professionals, whom they mock but depend on.
- The sexual implications of the conditions are, at Rogan’s instigation, explored.
- The friend, in despair, accuses Rogan of indifference to the sufferer’s plight and kicks Rogan out of the car.
- The friend discovers Rogan’s stash of well-thumbed advice books on the condition and thereby realizes that, beneath his joking exterior, he truly cares.
- Eventually, the condition is resolved safely and in the last scene, Rogan and the friend, permanently reconciled, are shown enjoying each other’s company.
I like Seth Rogan as much as the next guy but if I were sick, I’m not sure I would want somebody like him hanging around me. Making light of one’s own misfortune is dignified and often helpful; other people making fun of my misfortunes is just annoying. These movies just highlight that fact.
As I said, that was the review I was going to write, and arguably I did write it. But I learned something that siphoned a tiny bit from that fuel tank of bitterness every critic and screenwriter manqué depends on. What I learned was, 50/50 is in fact a true story. It was based closely on the experience someone that the producers of these movies knew well. Presumably, all the incidents shared by the movies originate in his real-life story.
The sufferer in real life was a semi-successful writer named Will Reiser, who survived cancer and who actually wrote the script for 50/50. His loyal and falsely maligned friend, in real life?