More than just a funny movie about cancer

How do you make cancer funny? I guess the better question is how do you make cancer funny and then convince thousands of people to go see a movie about it? Last night I, along with our intrepid intern Taylor Walker, got to see an advanced screening of 50/50, which is a dramedy about a young man's cancer journey after he's been diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer and given even odds for his chances of survival; it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. Now, I will admit that I was predisposed to like the movie because I'm fond of the actors, but I genuinely enjoyed the film. It was funnier and more touching than I thought it would be, and yes, I teared up a little and laughed a lot. And as an added bonus, CURE is featured in one of the scenes at the doctor's office. You can try and spot our Spring 2008 issue in the film; it's a bit like trying to spot Alfred Hitchcock in one of his famous cameos in his movies. (NOTE: I specifically left out many details, so anyone who wants to see it can still enjoy the full experience.)50/50 might start out like any other raunchy comedy you'd expect to find Rogen playing a wisecracking buddy in, but the movie quickly shifts focus to Adam (Gordon-Levitt) and how he and those around him handle his cancer diagnosis and treatment. And although I've never had cancer, I have had friends and family (all of them young adults) diagnosed with cancer and have gained some knowledge about the specific issues young cancer patients face through my work at CURE. Gordon-Levitt's portrayal of Adam seems like an individual journey as well as one of the everyman as he encounters these issues. The familiar situations that pop up following Adam's diagnosis--uncomfortable social situations, an overbearing mother who wants to move in, medical marijuana--are all played for broad comedy while still being grounded in realism.And the movie never loses its irreverent edge while exploring some of the more complex issues, such as dating after a diagnosis and mortality. The balancing act between humor and drama is deftly handled by the cast and the writer, Will Reiser, who based the script on his own experience with cancer. In between the gross-out jokes and situational humor you can feel Adam's sense of fortitude and alienation and anger. The young adult cancer community, including Planet Cancer and I'm Too Young for This! (i[2]y), seem to be excited for the movie because it doesn't give cancer the whitewashed Hollywood-treatment but rather hones in on real situations young adults face, such as feeling isolated or being the only one in the chemo room under the age of 50.As someone who has loved ones who've had cancer, what I particularly related to in the film was Adam's relationships with those around him. While the story is very much about Adam, the ripple effects of his diagnosis affect the other people in his life in sometimes unexpected ways. It's a great reminder that everyone can be touched by cancer in some way and that even the most well-meaning of loved ones might not know all the right things to say or do. Just like Adam is a "newbie" to cancer, so are his friends and family.So how did the filmmakers make cancer funny? They didn't shy away from the ugly side of cancer or handle it with kid gloves or pretend that it isn't a serious illness. Instead, they treated cancer like they would any other part of life; they uncovered the dark humor in the situation and infused it with warmth and understanding. So it's more than just a funny movie about a guy hoping to live after cancer. It's about all the aspect of a man's life--the good, the bad, the ugly--as he faces a life-changing situation.Are you planning to see the movie? If so, what are you hoping to see in it?