By Rich Cline
Films about cancer aren't generally this funny. And while this movie isn't a comedy, beyond its generous dose of realistic humour, it has a smart, personal script that dares to face a difficult situation head on. And the light tone makes it hugely involving.
Young journalist Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is shocked to discover that his sore back is actually a rare tumour twithonly aa 50 percent survival rate. His girlfriend (Howard) promises to stick by him, best pal Kyle (Rogen) offers support, even as he uses Adam's illness to get girls, and Adam's mother (Huston) can't help but offer too much help. But he develops an awkward rapport with inexperienced therapist Katie (Kendrick) that actually does some good. And as his treatment sucks the life out of him, he finds two new friends in his fellow patients (Hall and Frewer).
The story is told through Adam's sparky, sardonic perspective. It's not that he's using humour as a defence mechanism; he's just a genuinely funny, observant person who slices through the usual niceties. His interaction with the goofier Kyle is often hilarious, but the best moments come when he and Katie clumsily try to figure out their roles as patient and doctor, or maybe friends. Meanwhile, the plot isn't afraid to throw in surprising twists that redefine characters and push Adam in difficult directions.
As a result, the filmmakers earn every moment of sentimentality and emotion while keeping us laughing at the jagged honesty of the characters.
Gordon-Levitt is terrific as a complex guy who's pretty sure he knows how he feels and is surprised to discover that maybe he has something to learn about himself. His scenes with Rogen are riotous and sometimes surprisingly touching, and he has terrific chemistry with Kendrick and Huston, both of whom are excellent in roles that could easily have been caricatures.
All of this is held together beautifully by Levine's relaxed direction and Reiser's astute script, which is based on his own experience. It's rare to see a film that can make such a wide range of relationships this believable, so the film never feels remotely preachy, even though it is constantly giving us insight into the way we treat people around us who are ill.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 30th September 2011
Box Office Worldwide: $39.2M
Distributed by: Summit Entertainment
Production compaines: Summit Entertainment, Mandate Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 172 Rotten: 12
Cast & Crew
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenwriter: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, Seth Rogen as Kyle, Anna Kendrick as Katherine, Bryce Dallas Howard as Rachael, Anjelica Huston as Diane, Serge Houde as Richard, Andrew Airlie as Dr. Ross, Matt Frewer as Mitch, Philip Baker Hall as Alan, Donna Yamamoto as Dr. Walderson, Yee Jee Tso as Dr. Lee, Stephanie Beard as Susan, Sarah Smyth as Jenny, Peter Kelamis as Phil, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Jackie, Daniel Bacon as Dr. Phillips, P. Lynn Johnson as Bernie, Laura Bertram as Claire, Matty Finochio as Ted, Marie Avgeropoulos as Allison