(Only about a month late)
First off, I just have to preface this with the fact that I am a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I’m a huge fan of his, and I personally think that he’s the everyman actor of my generation. A blog post about this is in the works, but anyways, on to the movie.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie since I first saw the previews. I had a feeling it was one of those indie films that had the feel-good sentiment that allowed a studio to really punch it up. I was a bit hesitant when I found out that Seth Rogen signed on, but I had faith that Gordon-Levitt could carry the film, and indeed, he does. The fact that Anna Kendrick is in this little gem is just the cherry on top.
For me, personally, the premise of the story is an interesting one. I’ve dealt with someone close to me having cancer, my mother and one of my best friends in particular. I think I was too young to really understand my feelings when my best friend was battling leukemia, but I distinctly remember when my mother was going through it. I don’t think you really know what someone is going through in a situation like that until you’ve dealt with it. The combination of fear, loneliness, and just a genuine desire to not be pitied and hating anyone that does is a theme that is very much touched upon in this film. For me, the biggest part of getting through the ordeal was just trying to get everyone around me to fuck off. I knew that it wasn’t fair, because those people, or at least most of them, actually cared about how I was, and how my family was, I just remember at the time I didn’t want to deal with any of them, because, well, you have to be in that situation to realize how much you want to be alone, yet surrounded by people at the same time.
How does this relate to the plot? Well, imagine all of these feelings, but placed on yourself. The central premise of the movie involves a 20-something getting an inexplicable bout of cancer, him trying to deal with it, his buddy, his girlfriend, his therapist, and of course, his mother. There are some other minor characters along the way, but at the end of the day the movie is really a showcase for the 5 main characters.
Anjelica Huston’s portrayal of Gordon-Levitt’s mother is really a study in motherly strength. I think we all view our mothers as someone who needs to be protected from the in’s-and-out’s of our lives, but in this film, Huston captures the quiet strength that all mothers possess (at least mine does). In addition to dealing with her son with cancer, she also has to deal with a husband who has Alzheimer’s. That in itself has to be a personal hell, but Huston acts it out to a beat. She’s the mother that we all have, that we want to have, and yet, hope we don’t have. Her emotional ‘mom’ moments add both humor and poignancy to the film. She probably has the least screen time of the 5 major actors, but when she’s on-screen, she doesn’t waste a moment.
Both Seth Rogen and Bryce Dallas Howard I kind of lump together. I think both of them just play themselves in everything I’ve seen them in, despite what their character’s names are. Bryce Dallas Howard always plays the attractive girl, innocent and charming with her seeming naivete, but has some self-serving motive that she somehow justifies in her own mind using her own thought process. Seth Rogen is well, Seth Rogen. Crass, unpolished, chauvinistic, but with a heart of gold. Seth Rogen just works in this film. His use of his buddy’s cancer situation to assist himself in getting poon leads to some laugh out loud scenes, and the rapport that he and Gordon-Levitt have feels real. Howard on the other hand, it just doesn’t work. It may be because I think the character is terrible, but it just doesn’t really fit her. By no means is her portrayal weak, but it is the weakest out of the ensemble.
Anna Kendrick, be still my beating heart. She plays her socially obtuse, quick witted, lightning tongued self. All the while being insufferably cute. A cerebral man’s crush. Count me smitten. My adoration aside though, she’s perfectly casted and plays to her strengths. She’s tightly wound, but when needed, she reveals real emotion. As the romantic interest, her and Gordon-Levitt have some of the best chemistry I’ve seen on screen for a while.
Gordon-Levitt, was impressive, as always. It may just seem like I’m heaping praise on him, but when you watch this movie, he works out the entire emotional range in the entire movie, running the entire gamut. Some of his scenes are a bit forced, but those scenes are called to be forced. Dealing with a new girlfriend when you have cancer, or not wanting your mother to worry about you (while the whole time you don’t call her to make her worry) are scenes that require a bit of awkwardness. When the scenes call for a bit of melodrama, he rides the edge where it’s relatable and not over-the-top. Another solid performance.
All-in-all, I really liked the film. Great plot, snappy dialogue, and a real, heartfelt script. Definitely go see it, you won’t regret it, though you might want to bring a few tissues.