He reviewed 50/50 despite walking out. His act and his review reveal a short fuse that, when lit and allowed to burn, leads to a prissy explosion of hollow wit, subjective assessments, and laughable ignorance.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Has Cancer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Best Friend: Seth Rogen
Girlfriend: Bryce Dallas Howard
Mom: Anjelica Huston
Therapist: Anna Kendrick
Cool Old Dudes: Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer
Written by and based on his experience: Will Reiser
Rex Reed's Assessment:
"In the pantheon of tastelessness designed to make you laugh at diarrhea, menstruation, masturbation, yeast infections, fellatio and worse, you can now add a stupid horror called 50/50. Artificial, irresponsible, filthy and forgettable, it knocks itself cross-eyed trying to make you roar with laughter at chemotherapy, with the nauseating Seth Rogen milking most of the yuks. But a stoner comedy about cancer? I don’t think so.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has two expressions — sleepy and catatonic — and he wears them ragged as Adam Lerner, a 27-year-old reporter for National Public Radio stationed in Seattle who sinks into an understandable depression when malignant tumors are diagnosed on his spine and he is given only a 50/50 chance of survival. His best friend is a disgusting moron who is determined to cheer up by using his terminal illness to attract girls. Can Seth Rogen play anything else? I think they write disgusting moron parts for him in case Zach Galifianakis or Jack Black are busy playing other disgusting moron roles elsewhere, and he plays them all the same way. Anyway, in one of the few lines that can be repeated in print, he says, “If you were a casino game, you’d have the best odds.” In this movie, even the doctors are stupid. Adam’s oncologist is only 24. “What are you? Doogie Howser?” he asks incredulously. Doctor: “Who?” Adam: “Doogie Howser. The teenage doctor.” Oncologist: “Does he work here?” These are the jokes, folks.
Part of this movie is about the ghastly ordeal cancer patients go through—pain, syringes, vomiting, and coughing up blood, and a cold, impersonal medical establishment that places little value on human life—and part of it is about everyone else—caregivers, family members and friends—all of whom care more about themselves than the patient. (All false generalizations for the sake of laughs, and like everything else in the movie, grossly exaggerated.) When Adam undergoes his first chemo treatment, his duplicitous girlfriend (badly overacted by Bryce Dallas Howard) waits four hours in the car because she can’t stand the interiors of hospitals. His stressed-out mother (and what, you may well ask, is Anjelica Huston doing in this blunder?) acts like a cross between Lady Macbeth and Zasu Pitts. Eventually Adam gives up and falls for his psychiatrist (Anna Kendrick) in a sex game that is pure cardboard.
Director Jonathan Levine, who proved his incompetence with two previous disasters, The Wackness and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (a sex thriller so bad it was never released), based the film on the autobiographical experiences of the film’s writer, Will Reiser. But nothing about it rings true. The gallows humor is unforgiving and the compassion is synthetic. The film reveals nothing new about advances in cancer research, addresses no issues like the drug companies that suppress alternative treatments to profit from human suffering. No, it’s just about one guy trying to get laid.
As a nice fellow coming to grips with his own mortality, Mr. Gordon-Levitt shows some tenderness that was never on view in grim movies like Brick and Inception, but his character is so passive it’s hard to get a grip of your own on any kind of reality. Seth Rogen is too vulgar and creepy to believe as anyone’s friend, but he is convincing as a dedicated believer in the medicinal value of pot smoking. My reaction to everything that happens in 50/50 was “Why don’t they just walk out?” But nobody did, so I did it for them.
My Assessment of Rex Reed:
1. There's no diarrhea, menstruation, masturbation, yeast infection jokes in here. Although, in the first 5 minutes, there are fellatio jokes.
2. 50/50 doesn't try to make you laugh at chemo.
3. It isn't a stoner comedy about cancer. Weed being involved doesn't automatically make it a stoner comedy.
4. I don't even know how to respond to the Zach Galifianakis/Jack Black comment. The fact is, writer Will Reiser is a good friend of Seth Rogen. The film is based on Reiser's diagnosis of spinal cancer. And Seth Rogen's character IS BASED ON SETH ROGEN. So I think Rogen hit the nail on the head.
5. Adam's oncologist is an middle-aged man with silver hair who rarely makes eye contact. Anna Kendrick is the 24 year-old therapist. It's blatantly obvious. That Reed missed this is...well...idiotic. They call her a therapist several times. And she's clearly talking to him about emotional problems.
6. Reed mocks the Doogie Howser joke. LN: "Can you fly this plane." RH: "Surely, you can't be serious." LN: "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley." Is that nearly as funny as it is when watching the movie Airplane!? Strip a joke of context, of inflection, and timing and it's more than likely going to fall flat. That doesn't mean the joke was bad. Rex didn't like it. Fine. But it's not a bad joke.
7. There are no false generalizations. The movie is character-based. All the characters are individuals that are reacting to the situation. Anjelica Huston isn't playing Every-mom. Howard isn't Every-girlfriend. Rogen isn't Every-friend. GL isn't even Every-man--he's Adam Lerner. The movie never elevates itself to commentary or philosophy (like the Bucket List where it makes a point that you need to make the most out of life while you have it). It doesn't spout life lessons. The characters talk and interact true to their constructed personalities. Saying they're generalizations is off-base.
8. I thought Howard did a fine job acting. And what Reed was too dense to catch is that Howard being scared of hospitals (which is why she, presumably, waited in the car for four hours) was a lie. She was distancing herself from GL and the situation.
9. The Huston comparison is nonsensical. Lady Macbeth talks her husband into murdering a king, feels remorse for her actions and commits suicide. And Zasu Pitts....
10. "Proved his incompetence"
12. GL's character is passive because he's suppressing his fear and rage and uncertainty for 90% of the movie. His emotional release is the film's climax (Oh, but Reed walked out, so he wouldn't know this). Seth Rogen isn't too vulgar or creepy to imagine as a friend. Reed may not want him as a friend, but Rogen is playing SETH ROGEN and Seth Rogen has plenty of friends.
13. "Why don't they just walk out?" Who? Who, Rex? Rex Reed often has attribution issues.
And moving on. Go to Rotten Tomatoes' Rex Reed page and click on a review. Go to the first comment. Chances are the first comment is someone calling Reed out for factual errors. This is true for
50/50 (the oncologist is actually the therapist)
Moneyball (Art Howe was not a new coach)
Contagion (thought the bubonic plague was caused by polluted wells and that it killed half of Europe (rats; 1/3))
Warrior (wrong names)
The Change-Up (said "There is no such thing as a 'change-up'." Maybe he learned something when he saw Moneyball, but probably not since it's obvious Reed doesn't pay full attention to the films he watches).
Crazy Stupid Love (describes Kevin Bacon as Julianne Moore's "boss" which isn't right--he's her coworker).
Cowboys & Aliens (no one calls him out, but he cites one ship and one monster attacking the town, which isn't true. And he also places Harrison Ford in a scene Harrison Ford isn't in).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 (this is the first comment: "I have to agree with many people posting here, Mr. Reed...it seems the movie didn't make much sense to you because you barely deigned to give it a modicum of attention. The whole explanation of what the horcruxes are has been explaining throughout 3 of the movies (Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2), and you didn't get a single one of them right in your review. The Elder Wand was explained in an easy to follow fairy tale (as in five-year olds can understand it) in Deathly Hollows Part 1 (as one of the titular Deathly Hallows, not a horcrux). The horcruxes that are identified at the end of Deathly Hallows Part 1 (I won't spoil which ones are revealed in Part 2) are a ring, an old diary, and a locket - no wands involved. We actually see Ron destroy the locket on-screen (and see Harry destroy the diary back in Movie 2, but it's obvious from your sarcasm and disdain that you've decided to treat these movies as mindless fluff, so that's what you're going to get back from them). You don't have to be a geek to know these things, you don't have to "live your life in fantasy"...you just have to give the story a bit of respect and attention. If you can't bring yourself to do that, fine...just maybe hand the reins of your reviewing duties over to someone who still cares a bit. A positive review isn't much of a review if the reviewer didn't even understand the source material.")
I think the point has been made.
Rex Reed was once a film critic. Unfortunately, as the years have passed, not only has he started to look like Denny Crane, his reviews show a similarity to Crane's absent-mindedness, incorrectness, and childishness. The only difference is Denny Crane was fictional, suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, and would often redeem himself with a prolific speech. Mr. Reed, as a film reviewer, has no such saving graces.
Did I like it:
Yes. Not so much at first. At first 50/50 felt very...familiar. Too similar to Forty-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, Knocked Up, Zack and Miri. But it takes its own course and I got into it. Every positive review talks about how the film does "such a great job balancing serious and funny" and that's true. I liked that it never got high-minded. That it stayed about the characters and their reactions. I found the characters endearing.
I thought the sneaky use of the volcano erupting as metaphor and foreshadow was kind of cheesy. And random for a movie that, as far as I could tell, is otherwise devoid of metaphor.
I think the acting is split. GL, Rogen, and Kendrick seemed very much their typical characters. Which is fine because I like them. But Kendrick is similar to how she was in Up in the Air. Rogen is Rogen (but this is intended). And GL seems a fusion of his roles in (500) Days of Summer and The Lookout. Whereas Howard and Huston struck me as unique portrayals.
The directing isn't anything special. One reviewer used the word "honest" to describe Levine's shots. I think that works.
I laughed a good amount. No guffaws. But good laughter. And I cried a good amount. The movie never turns melodramatic. But the characters get dramatic. We don't get the soaring or mopey music. So you feel very much as though you're watching someone. Instead of watching something (like a movie). Which I think lends 50/50 its emotional power.
I still don't understand why GL is such a dick to Kendrick. He's nice to everyone else in the movie. But he's rude, short-tempered, and untrusting when it comes to her. There's definitely arguments to be made that defend his attitude (she's a therapist and people are nervous around therapists?). But I still don't get it. I accept it. I don't disbelieve it. I just don't get it.
I'm in love with Anna Kendrick. What a smile.
What It's Good For:
-fans of the actors involved
-a solid movie watching experience, mixture of laughter, tension, sadness and fun.
-guys to show their sensitive side when watching as part of a date-night
-young and adult (movie balances vulgarity and heart)
-realistic portrayal of a reaction to cancer diagnosis
-Rogen's brand of humor can rub some people the wrong way
-I had problems believing the tension between GL and Kendrick
% Character / % Actor
-GL: 10 Things I Hate About You; Angels in the Outfield; Inception
-Rogen: Superbad; Kung Fu Panda; Pineapple Express; Funny People
-Kendrick: Up in the Air; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; those vampire movies
-Lady Macbeth: Shakespeare
-Boston Legal: James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen; The Practice
-Cancer movies: Life as a House; Dying Young; Brians Song; Wit; Terms of Endearment; Ikiru; Biutiful