50/50 (2011) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Adam is a 27 year old writer of radio programs and is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. With the help of his best friend, his mother, and a young therapist at the cancer center, Adam learns what and who the most important things in his life are.

  • Adam is a methodical twenty-seven year old writer of radio programs that lives together with his girlfriend Rachael that is a painter. His best friend is Kyle that does not like Rachael and Adam is estranged of his overprotective mother Diane, who takes care of her husband Richard that has Alzheimer. When Adam feels a pain on his back, he goes to the doctor and is diagnosed of spinal cancer. He researches in Internet and he sees that his odds are 50% of healing. He goes to chemotherapy and is helped by the twenty-four year-old therapist Katherine. Along the treatment, Adam finds more about the feelings of Rachael, Katherine and Kyle and he realizes how much his mother loves him.

  • Adam is 27, working for public radio in Seattle. He consults a doctor about his back pains and gets a terrible diagnosis - a rare form of cancer that's fatal half the time. Chemo starts immediately. His best friend Kyle, and his girlfriend, Rachael, vow to see him through it. Rachael helps keep his dramatic mother at bay, he meets some of the regulars at chemo, and he's assigned a grad-student psychologist, Katherine: he's her third patient, and she tries to say the right things, often without effect. Kyle wants to turn Adam's cancer into a chick magnet, Rachael keeps Adam at arm's length, Adam doesn't answer his mom's calls, and the chemo saps his strength. The clock ticks.

  • Despite leading an extremely healthy lifestyle, which includes no smoking, no drinking, no drugs and not even possessing a driver's license to partake in what he considers the associated dangerous activity, twenty-seven year old Seattle Public Radio journalist Adam Lerner is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. After getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis upon which he could not focus after the word "cancer", Adam reads online about his specific type - schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma - the article he reads which reports a 50% survival rate. His primary physician, Dr. Ross, prescribes a course of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before they can even contemplate the dangerous surgery to remove the remainder of the malignant growth which is located on his spine. Beyond the variety of emotions Adam goes through related to his diagnosis and his treatment, he also goes through a range of emotions in relation to the help and support provided by the various people in his life. They include: Diane Lerner, his overbearing mother who he believes has become even more overbearing with this news, especially as her life is spent solely dealing with Adam's father's Alzheimer's; Rachael, his girlfriend, who had to decide whether to stay with him as they were just at point of taking their relationship to that next level or calling it quits when Adam was first diagnosed; Kyle, his SPR colleague and best friend, who tries to cheer Adam up by the positive, mostly in that Adam can get laid by anyone he wants by playing the sympathy card (and in turn Kyle can get his fair share riding on Adam's coattails); Alan Lombardo and Mitch Barnett, two older fellow chemo patients who become the human faces of cancer to Adam; and Katherine McKay, a twenty-four year old Ph.D. candidate who is assigned his psychological therapist, he who is only her third such patient which shows in her sometimes awkward but well meaning textbook actions.

  • Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Adam Learner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 27-year-old journalist with an attractive girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), of whom his best friend and co-worker Kyle (Seth Rogen) disapproves.

    Adam discovers he has a a rare cancer and must undergo chemotherapy. After Adam reveals his diagnosis, his overbearing mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), who already cares for a husband suffering from Alzheimer's disease, is determined to move in with him. He rejects this offer, however, as Rachael has promised to be the one to take care of him.

    Adam skeptically begins going to the young and inexperienced therapist, Katie McCay (Anna Kendrick), and although their relationship and sessions begin with a rocky start, he slowly begins to open up to her about his disease and how it is affecting him. The two develop a rapport both in and outside of their sessions, as the lines between doctor-patient and friends begins to blur. During chemo treatments, Adam also befriends Alan (Philip Baker Hall) and Mitch (Matt Frewer), two older cancer patients who give him perspective on life, love, and illness. Meanwhile, Kyle attempts to keep Adam's spirits high, which includes using his illness as a way to pick up women. He also uses his friend's illness to his own advantage, to Adam's annoyance. On a date with a woman he met through these means, Kyle sees Rachael kissing another man and tells Adam, who proceeds to break up with her, despite her excuses and protestations.

    Although Adam at first claims to everyone that he is fine and handling his disease well, his composure slowly begins to unravel as the realities and seriousness of his illness become increasingly sharper. When the doctor informs him that his body is not responding to the chemotherapy and his only option is dangerous surgery, he is forced to emotionally confront his situation, and figure out what and who in his life is truly important to him.

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