2 August 2011 | ferguson-6
Tears, Laughs, Life Lessons
Greetings again from the darkness. The great Richard Pryor had a portion of his act dedicated to having a heart attack, based on his real life experience. I guess if he can generate laughter from a coronary, there is no reason writer Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) can't view Cancer as Comedy. There is little doubt that the subject matter of this film will limit its audience, but for those brave souls who give it a shot, I believe you will find it funny, touching and insightful.
The film introduces us to Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is a very nice, very normal, very low-key guy who works at a radio station as a writer ... a very conscientious radio writer. Adam experiences a nagging pain in his back, which is unusual for a healthy 27 year old. After a few tests, the emotionless doctor informs him that he has a rare spinal cancer ... also very unusual for a healthy 27 year old. From this point forward, the film borders on brilliance at times.
Adam's girlfriend is played by Bryce Dallas Howard; his mother by Angelica Huston; and his best friend by Seth Rogen. Each reacts in different ways to Adam's diagnosis, but what's really interesting is not just how these people react, but also how Adam reacts. He moves forward in his meticulous manner, but all the while we know the emotions are brewing. We see this in his sessions with his therapist-in-training played by Anna Kendrick.
Seth Rogen's character is basically a carbon copy of his act in 40 Year Old Virgin. He spews profane one-liners faster than our ears can process. Despite the aggressive front, Rogen's character is a friend with a heart ... and one who doesn't hesitate to share his medicinal marijuana.
So while Rogen's character generates much of the laughter, the real treasure of this film is in the subtleties of each character in certain moments ... and each character has their moment. Many will compare this to Adam Sandler's film Funny People, which also starred Seth Rogen. But this movie has infinitely more depth and substance than that one offered.
My warning: brace yourself. My theatre was filled with tears and sniffles, with significant laugh out loud moments mixed in. This is an emotional, self-reflective film that will confound you as you inexplicably laugh while listening to cancer talk.