Mortal illness can strengthen one's resolve---that's what happens, thankfully, with this cancer drama that builds to the confidently sincere movie you hoped it would be, after dithering around in tired cutesiness. Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is our young, cool-headed Seattle hero who gets extremely bad news from his doctor; his rascally sidekick, Kyle (Rogen in his 40-Year-Old Virgin mode), leaps into action, suggesting a distracting prescription of player tactics. Less supportive is Adam's brittle artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard, affecting in a tough part), who can't get her head around the hospital visits, where cantankerous chemo patients trade dark put-downs.
Just when this upbeat skimming on the surface gets a little obnoxious, along come two knockout performances that help raise everyone's game. Anna Kendrick's well-meaning but inexperienced counselor, a touch preprogrammed, pushes Adam toward the rage we know he's feeling. And Anjelica Huston's take on the role of Adam's mother---normally a grief-mop of a part---is honed to a surprising edge: a font of withering potshots and terrible, aching need. The story is an autobiographical one from screenwriter Will Reiser's own ordeal; you smile with the thought that he had such women in his life, tough yet supportive, giving him the license to be funny again.
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