Jewish Journal

Seth Rogen eating matzah ball soup; talking about comedy and cancer

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 8, 2011 | 3:14 pm

The Jewish Journal checks in with Seth Rogen and friends regarding the new film “50/50.” The billboards had left me really confused, but the above trailer and Naomi Pfefferman’s feature helps sort things out.

In “50/50,” which is by turns poignant and hilarious, Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 20-something writer for public radio who has an artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and a pothead-jokester best friend, Kyle (Rogen). But early on, it’s clear all isn’t well with Adam, when he fatigues while jogging and complains of worsening back pain. When Adam finally visits a doctor, the news is shocking: A tumor is snaking alongside his spine, with the almost unpronounceable name of neurofibrosarcoma, or malignant schwannoma. And his MRI — actually based on Reiser’s own MRI — indicates he has only a 50 percent chance of survival. A life-threatening surgery is his only option.

Definitely bold but not necessarily insensitive. Here’s what Rogen and director Jonathan Levine told Naomi about the movie’s subject:

“I’m used to people hating all my s—- before they watch it,” Rogen said. “But I think we did the movie honestly and respectfully and based it on our own experiences.”

Levine, who has helped care for relatives braving cancer, agreed: “It’s not just because I’m Jewish and I own a bong that I relate to this,” he told the producers while lobbying to direct the movie.

“What this film does with character and pushing the boundaries of comedy is incredibly resonant and important. The salient theme is: What does it mean to be young and facing this disease? What does it mean to be facing the end of your life before you’ve really lived it?”

Not really sure what Levine means about being Jewish and relating to a fill about facing cancer. Maybe because certain types of cancer are more common among Ashkenazi Jews? It’s not really clear.

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