Dir: Jonathan Levine
A comedy about cancer!… Surely that can’t work?
That’s what prettymuch everybody said when this film was released, almost all reviewers and critics made the same point, and when I told my friends what we were about to watch after dinner last night, they said the same.
Somehow people forget that this has been done before, in 1983, with Terms of Endearment. In fact, just for those who forgot this, the film refers to it directly, with the protagonist asking his mother ‘Do you remember in Terms of Endearment?’ That film however, was very weighty, and garnered 5 Academy Award wins and a number of other nominations, this was far lighter, still with a fair amount of both laughs and poignant moments… yet was rewarded only with a couple of Golden Globe nominations.
This possibly says quite a lot about how things have changed in the past 30 years, not that people are less affected by cancer-themed films, but more that as people are increasingly likely to be affected by cancer personally, it is a finer tightrope to walk for filmmakers. When at one time, the idea of a comedy with a cancer theme might have intrigued, now, people immediately fear the worst, and often they should. So much bad-taste humour is thrown at topics that shouldn’t be lightly trivialized, what are the chances of getting it right… less than 50/50?
In my opinion this did get it right! With a screenplay penned by someone who had gone through the situation himself (actually with Seth Rogen as his friend) obviously had a strong bearing on how it was written, and the focus was rightly on how the disease affects those with it, and the people who love them. I didn’t feel at any point that light was being made of the cancer itself, just the situations it led the sufferer and others into.
I’m not going to say it’s a film to put on your ‘reading list’ to help cope with the same situation, as for many it wouldn’t appeal, but of course for some, it might. As an enjoyable evenings viewing however, I would say the chances are good!