Film Review: “50/50”

Film Review:  “50/50”

Otherwise stock story in an ethos of “Terms of Endearment”.  The innocent kid informed that he has cancer by the callous doctor and tries to hold up under the ministrations of his friends and relatives. Been done a hundred times before. But got very good reviews from Rotten Tomatoes (Score of 92, which always means “work a look”).

The actors are excellent. Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off the role of the stricken 27 year old nicely without being maudlin. Seth Rogan is, as always, Seth Rogan. The female protagonist played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the air) was the big surprise of the film, brilliantly pulling off the therapist/friend trying to maintain the professional/personal separation. The film is worth seeing for her outstanding performance alone.

Otherwise it is what it is.

Until the end when an absolutely incredible song rolls that I had not heard before.  I stuck around for the credits to find out who it was. Lo and behold:  the song is “Yellow Ledbetter” by (Eddie Vetter) Pearl Jam, with Mike McCready on intricate lead guitar.

An extremely interesting song:

Check it out here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLRZzcf3O3k

It’s based on an unusual I-V-IV chord progression in the key of E major. McCready masterfully plays a Stratocaster incorporating string hammer-ons and pull-offs into the subtle chord work very much like Hendrix. He makes expressive use of the guitar’s whammy bar during the solo, bending notes to create an ethereal tone.  Nothing sounds like this but a Strat. The words are Unintelligible. All you hear is the emotion, for which Eddie Vetter is a past master.

(Some portions consulted from Wikipedia). The song is said to be written during the first gulf war, when Bush 41 was President. The story is about a young Grunger kid, all dressed up in his flannels with the long greasy hair. His brother goes off to fight in the war and gets killed. He gets a letter that comes in one of those yellow army envelopes and learns of his brother’s death. So, all upset, he decides to go out and walk it off. On his walk he passes by a neat, middle-aged or elderly couple sitting on their front porch having some tea, and he sees that they have an American flag out.

He gives a wave, because he feels like he relates: “The flag, my brother, you know…” But they don’t know, of course. They don’t know what’s underneath the grunge and the long hair. All they see are the outward appearances, and they don’t wave back. The song has changed its meaning over time and Eddie changes the words to suit whatever is on his mind.  Pearl Jam often uses this to close their concerts. The houselights come on and the audience sings along.

It’s brilliant.

5 of 5 road worn Strats for the song.

3 of 5 bald pates for the film.

 

 

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