I think most of us—well, except maybe the Japanese—have probably reached the point where one more manipulative and maudlin cancer-ward hospital-bed scene is going to drive us screaming from the theater. So why not a cancer comedy? Because there’s nothing funny about cancer? That’s clearly not the conclusion reached by Will Reiser, the screenwriter of this semi-autobiographical story, and he’s been there. Walking the cancer/comedy cusp is a pretty slick trick, if you think about it, but director Jonathan Levine is sufficiently in sync with Reiser to make such a fragile mix work, and pretty much hits the sweet spot. The result is an enjoyably irreverent, congenial movie that’s half funny, half serious, and all honest. Don’t be thinking Terms of Endearment meets Animal House. Nothing of the kind. The film eschews sap and sentiment and somewhat miraculously avoids seeming cheap. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the afflicted, leads a flawless cast that includes Seth Rogen as his raunchy pal, Anna Kendrick as his rookie therapist, Anjelica Huston as his smothering mom, and Bryce Dallas Howard as his faithless girlfriend. I know it’s a cliché, but you’ll laugh and you’ll cry.
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