In 50/50, Jonathan Levine, whose The Wackness (2008) showed a talent for sardonic comedy, makes a halfhearted attempt to raise Will Reiser's script (partly autobiographical) above clever stereotype. Here Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an earnest, clean-living guy, finally checks out the recurring pain in his back and finds out he has a rare spinal cancer. His odds of survival are those of the title, and meanwhile he must endure the ordeal of treatment and well-intended friends and relatives. His best bud Kyle (Reiser's real-life pal Seth Rogen) sticks by him, and when the two joke about the disease, the debilitating medical care, and other miseries, their patter scores laughs and rings true.
But then the humor turns ugly, directed toward Adam's cheating girlfriend Rachael, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Fresh from personifying the evil of the segregated South in The Help, here she embodies the bitterness of death. Well, someone has to take the blame. Luckily, Adam and bumbling rookie therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) seem made for each other — if only they would notice! In short, an edgy concept, promising director, and a fine cast done in by bromides.