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Can Hollywood take on cancer? PDF Print E-mail

By Lilly Workneh, Special to CNN

updated 11:20 AM EST, Thu October 27, 2011

Can Hollywood take on cancer?Hollywood has tried many times to bring the harsh realities of cancer to the big screen, but audiences don't always want to take on the difficult subject.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?"50/50" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, left, and Seth Rogen, takes a comedic spin on cancer. A rare spinal cancer strikes 27-year-old Adam and he relies on his best friend, Kyle, to have his back, literally and figuratively. The movie received acclaim from critics and USA Today gave it an "A," saying it "... draws humor out of a young man's illness, walks a tightrope of tragicomedy and touches on all the right points."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Breast cancer hits five female characters in this Lifetime original movie directed by Jennifer Anniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, Patty Jenkins and Penelope Spheeris. The movie's plot brings humor and drama to deliver five original stories about the effects of breast cancer and many of the shared experiences women face. The movie made its debut in October.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Sara (Cameron Diaz, left) and Brian (Jason Patric) are desperate to keep their cancer stricken daughter alive. The two decide to conceive another child with hopes that the baby will be a genetic bone marrow match. However, once born, the youngest sister sues her parents for the rights to her own body, providing a dramatic plot that pushes the boundaries of their family cohesion and moral and legal issues. The New York Times believed that it "...takes on a very tough subject...but ultimately it is too soft, too easy, and it dissolves like a tear-soaked tissue."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Blue-collar worker Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman, right), shares a hospital room with Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson), a billionaire corporate businessman. They discover they have more in common than suffering cancer. The two escape the hospital to squeeze a lifetime of goals into their last living days, all the while creating a close bond. However, USA Today said that it was "...superficial, manipulative and schmaltzy."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Ann (Sarah Polley) is a 24-year-old woman who learns she has cancer and only a few months left to live. "My Life Without Me," records the journey of her bucket list in a movie the New York Post called "...a strangely life-affirming work."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Troubled high school student Landon Carter (Shane West) is sentenced to community service and active membership in the school's drama club, where he unexpectedly falls in love with good-girl Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore). Jamie, the daughter of the town's Baptist minister, lives a more conservative lifestyle while hiding her problems with cancer. The Chicago Tribune gave it a "D," saying that it ".... scrapes the bottom of the melodramatic barrel."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?George (Kevin Kline) loses his job in architecture and soon discovers that he has terminal cancer. George sets out to reconnect with his son Sam (Hayden Christiansen), as they spend a summer together by the sea building his dream home. The New York Times said "...nothing about it feels organic."
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Sara Deever (Charlize Theron) has a bubbly personality and uses her charm to attract bad-mannered and heartless men and transform them into gentlemen. Her candidate for November, Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves), soon breaks her cycle as the two fall deeply in love. Unknown to Nelson, Sara has cancer and that's the reason she kept relationships so short.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?A family's dynamics change as a Harvard-grad daughter, Ellen Gulden (Renee Zellweger) is asked to return home to aid her dying mother, Kate (Meryl Streep), who is battling cancer. Time at home reminds Ellen of her mother's annoying holiday preparations and lunches. However, Ellen realizes that the moments spent with her mother may be some of her last.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?An astrocytoma brain tumor reverses its effect by stimulating brain cells rather than destroying them in the mind of George Malley (John Travolta). The result is a more active brain and a bizarre power of telekinesis, which attracts interest from the FBI and local officials. George becomes famous for his newfound powers and falls in love with Lace (Kyra Sedgwick). He tries to hide from authorities while still helping the community.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Ignorance leads the actions of Bob Jones (Michael Keaton) as he fails to accept his cancer diagnosis and shows little concern for his illness. He has a successful career and is immensely in love with his pregnant wife, Gail (Nicole Kidman), when an abrupt change causes Bob to realize that his time is limited. He confides to his video camera, recording his thoughts and personal moments, to leave behind a video legacy of his life.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?CC Bloom (Bette Midler) dreams of becoming a singer/actress. Her best friend, Hilary (Barbara Hershey), aspires to follow her father's footsteps in becoming a lawyer. As time goes on, the childhood friends find life taking them in separate directions. However, they soon reunite as CC returns to care for Hilary, who is suffering from cancer. Death comes soon for Hilary and CC vows to take care of her daughter as she balances her time as a Broadway star.
Can Hollywood take on cancer?Friendship transforms into love as Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV's (Ryan O'Neal) fate crosses paths with music student Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw). Unfortunately, Oliver's wealthy family frowns on the relationship and the two struggle to make ends meet. The situation becomes harder when Oliver discovers that Jenny has leukemia. His father denies requests for money to help with medical payments -- resulting in Jenny's death. "Love means never having to say you're sorry," says Oliver in response to his father's apology in failing to help.

Cancer's role in Hollywood films

'50/50' (2011)

'Five' (2011)

'My Sister's Keeper' (2009)

'The Bucket List' (2007)

'My Life Without Me' (2003)

'A Walk to Remember' (2002)

'Life as a House' (2001)

'Sweet November' (2001)

'One True Thing' (1998)

'Phenomenon' (1996)

'My Life' (1993)

'Beaches' (1988)

'Love Story' (1970)



Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?
Can Hollywood take on cancer?



STORY HIGHLIGHTS"50/50" is one of Hollywood's many cancer-themed films moviegoers did not rush to seeCritics praised the movie yet shunned similar ones that failed to give a sense of realnessSome cancer patients believe these movies do not accurately portray real-life cancer cases

(CNN) -- Hollywood's release of "50/50" in September received praise from top critics, but didn't do as well at the box office.

The movie, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, is screenwriter Will Reiser's humorous take on his own experiences as a cancer patient.

"Everything that we put in the movie, we wanted it to feel like it was real and honest," says Reiser in an interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Critics give credit to movies, such as "50/50," that they believe deliver a sense of authenticity and evoke an emotional response.

To patients like Pamela Cromwell, cancer-themed movies do not accurately portray the truth behind real-life cancer diagnoses.

"'50/50' was a great start, but the majority of movies reinforce the stigma that to be a 'certified' cancer patient you must appear weak, decrepit and on your death bed," says Cromwell, a breast cancer patient of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia.

Many patients also feel that some of these movies fail to show the daily physical and mental effects of cancer.

Can Hollywood take on cancer?Can Hollywood take on cancer?Seth Rogen and Will Reiser on '50/50' Can Hollywood take on cancer?Can Hollywood take on cancer?Seth Rogen isn't making fun of cancerCan Hollywood take on cancer?Can Hollywood take on cancer?Seth Rogen's new film: 'cancer comedy'?For Thomas Brokaw, a colon cancer patient in Alaska, "Movies tend to miss the realism of the day-to-day negative impact from having this disease or the impact the treatments have on the total body."Although movies such as "My Sister's Keeper," "The Bucket List" and "A Walk to Remember" tried to focus on the effects of the disease, they still received lukewarm reviews.The New York Times' A.O. Scott said "My Sister's Keeper" was "... too soft, too easy and it dissolves like a tear-soaked tissue." Meanwhile, USA Today critiqued "The Bucket List" as "...superficial, manipulative and schmaltzy."The star power leading some of the plots may encourage viewers to watch, yet audience response overall is similar to the critics. "A Walk to Remember" grossed a modest box office total of $41,281,092 while the Chicago Tribune said it "...scrapes the bottom of the melodramatic barrel."On the other hand, some cancer patients and survivors can relate to these movies and find them comforting in their own way."I think they drive the reality for those that were impacted," says Sandra J. Wing, founder and president of the Healing Therapies Foundation, a volunteer organization that provides financial assistance for cancer patients. "It reminds you of the importance of life -- the importance of every moment and not to waste it on things that aren't of value."Some films help to deliver a greater appreciation of life. To many viewers, these movies provide a platform that brings a sense of comfort.Reiser agrees saying, "Everyone's affected by cancer...but after screening the movie, people are much more open about sharing their own stories, and talking about the different ordeals they've gone through to one another."

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