If you hear the movie press machine tell it, I’m supposed to come away from 50/50 talking about how it’s a new type of cancer movie: frank, funny, and unconventionally moving and based on the real-life cancer experiences of its screenwriter, Will Reiser.
Instead, I left with a cool feeling toward the film’s misogyny, something that Seth Rogen’s presence often serves as a dog whistle for. Whether intentional or not, 50/50 turns its female characters into devilish or angelic stereotypes–namely the shrew, the nag and the Manic Pixie Dream Therapist.
Does 50/50 really hate its women? Or does the screenwriting merely reduce its women to known romantic comedy tropes who are naturally misogynistic and play better in comedy than drama? I’m not sure. Either way, the women become the psychic bullies needed to sustain its young cancer patient’s cocoon of victimology. Sometimes the film isn’t about living with cancer. Too often for my taste, it’s about the way cancer reveals how crappy women are.
Anna Kendrick gets off lightly, continuing to profit from playing the smart quirky girl who’s about two paces off of everyone around her. Her cancer therapist exists so that he can deliver our moody cancer sufferer (played impressively well by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from the evil cheating girlfriend and the evil nagging mother and remind him of the beauty of life. But what beauty is there in this guy’s life? At his core, he hates just about everything.
The film’s alleged innovations on the cancer movie amount to sex and drugs–medical marijuana puffing among the oldsters. These are dealt with on a shallow level–man, It’s hard to have sex with cancer!–without greater insight or deeper meaning. Taken together with the attitudes toward women, these innovation amount to the familiar (and least likable) tropes of today’s male-oriented comedies. The cancer movie definitely could use a shakeup. But I’m not sure the “Apatow cancer movie” is what it needs.
(see also TRAILER)