Will Reiser beat the odds to triumph over a rare but potentially fatal form of cancer.
Now, can the movie inspired by his brush with death pull off an Oscar upset?
“50/50,” the serio-comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role inspired by Reiser, didn’t obliterate the box office competition following its Sept. 2011 debut. To date, it’s rake in a modest $34 million, not too shabby for a film revolving around cancer but hardly blockbuster material. And the film’s 93 percent “fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes.com also bodes well for its awards season chances.
But the movie doesn’t have that Oscar feel, and while that’s no critique on the film itself it could matter when it comes time to tally up votes.
Let’s face it. Oscar voters have a very set group of rules when analyzing a film’s chances for awards. Does it feature Meryl Streep, Dame Judi Dench or Clint Eastwood? Is it a biopic of a Very Important Person? Did the film make a splash at Sundance/Cannes? Is there a timely, left-of-center political bent to the proceedings?
Here’s one question no Oscar voter is asking? Does the film co-star Seth Rogen, and does he smoke pot in it?
Will Rogen’s presence, and the atypical approach to the subject of cancer, hurt the movie? It’s a shame if it does, since “50/50” bullies past the usual mawkish subplots to give us a refreshingly honest look at a young man confronting cancer.
That Reiser not only survived by lived to write “50/50” makes the film all the more rewarding.
The film’s best Oscar chances may rest with Anjelica Huston’s turn as the lead character’s distraught mother. Huston, who previously won an Oscar for “Prizzi’s Honor,” could use one more meaty scene to help lock up a nomination. But her work here transcends typical parental behavior, making her both a fierce protector of her son and a wounded heart herself.