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Cancer and comedy as a recipe for schmaltz. What are the odds?

Jonathan Levine (USA, Special Presentation)

Monday, September 12, 6 p.m.
Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East)

Tuesday, September 13, 2 p.m.
AMC 7 (10 Dundas Street East)

Don’t let the pleasant appearance of Max Headroom’s Matt Frewer or the apropos reference to Kuato dupe you: 50/50 is absolute pap. As frothingly sentimentalized as anything since Dancer in the Dark, the movie’s arc of a late-twentysomething (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) getting struck down by a rare form of cancer and then learning to come to terms with it and then almost alienating his family and BFF and then making peace with them and (bonus) his own mortality functions strictly as a Kleenex-delivery mechanism.

After getting spinal cancer and finding out his blowjob-withholding girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) is cheating on him, Gordon-Levitt’s Adam holes up, alternately smoking pot and watching Planet Earth with best buddy Kyle (Rogen), sitting through chemo with two older patients (Frewer and Phillip Baker Hall, phoning it in), and falling in love with his doctoral-candidate therapist (Anna Kendrick). The way Levine ceremoniously frames Adam’s routine walk up the steps of the local hospital in the film’s first reel and the knowingly “awkward” sexual tension between Gordon-Levitt and Kendrick make 50/50 feel like nothing but the conclusion to a transaction that began as soon as you saw the trailer two months ago.