Love and Other Drugs
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Josh Gad, Hank Azaria
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins
Release Date: November 24, 2010
PLOT: A hotshot pharmaceutical salesman (Gyllenhaal) falls for a charismatic insecure young woman (Hathaway) with Parkinson’s.
WHO’S IT FOR? Any romantic of proper age could enjoy Love and Other Drugs, but this one is especially for the couples. Love and Other Drugs would make for a good warming romance for a cold winter trip to the multiplex.
EXPECTATIONS: Gyllenhaal and Hathaway had another special relationship in the acclaimed Brokeback Mountain. Would their newest get-together, one based off a memoir of a Viagra salesman, have a heavy political tone to it? Or would this adaptation just stick strictly to the couple’s inevitable chemistry?
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall: Slick in both the workplace and the bedroom, Jamie’s imperfections are what save the character from being unlikable as a grade-F douchebag. At first he’s a difficult sell as a manipulative rookie with the ability to bed whomever he chooses, and with a sharp grin to top it off. Once he encounters a different kind of damaged lover, Maggie, his determined attitude starts to work for a more agreeable sense, and some genuine sweetness does shine through. Not many can play the selfish jerk turned believable big romantic like Gyllenhaal.
Anne Hathaway as Maggie Murdock: Perhaps I’m on something, but I don’t feel like we see this type of tragic girl often in modern romances. Plenty of girls deal with sh*theads, but Maggie’s different – her insecurities tell her that such despicable men are what she’s good for, and nothing better. Sex is a source of pleasure, but it’s also something that she relies on to gain an idea of worth. Her sharp wit and defensiveness against real relationships is a cover-up for all types of pain. In this sense Maggie is a very striking character, brought to life uniquely by Hathaway.
Rest of cast: Josh Gad play’s Jamie’s brother, Josh, a flat character is horribly out of place here. He somehow wandered from a shenanigans-filled frat comedy into this film, and unfortunately brought his diverting sexual antics (masturbating to his brother’s homemade tape) with him. Hank Azaria plays a doctor who changes the way you look at middle-aged doctors. They’re just trying to get laid too.
TALKING: The movie’s sweetest dialogue functions like the line “You complete me” from Jerry Maguire. With the wrong delivery it could be cheesy, but here, dammit, it’s striking. The final scene involving the couple trying to stay together walks a tight rope through this territory, but it overall works, with the movie’s romance remaining victorious in being the right amount of sweet. In earlier instances, when the two are first starting to flirt and communicate, their dialogue is written with a tad too much screwball. Their exchange is too sharp for otherwise realistic characters.
SIGHTS: The powers behind Love and Other Drugs don’t even try to make their presentation of Chicago look like the actual Windy City. The movie’s sexual content does beckon for a lot of nakedness, but it’s not awkward or even pornographic (as it would be with other actors). Instead it welcomes the audience into the couple’s intimacy in a warming way, and leaves little about all corners of their relationship up to the imagination. Plus, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are both beautiful people. Who doesn’t want to see them roll around in the sheets?
SOUNDS: It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a movie start with the Spin Doctors. It also seems like we’re getting a bit familiar in hearing the quirky strings of Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity” at the movies, which plays during the credits here. Reaching into two different decades, the soundtrack stays in a poppy familiar realm.
BEST SCENE: Jamie’s training at Pfizer echoes a fraternity in a fascinating way.
ENDING: After all of the movie’s flirting with near-disastrous elements of cheesiness, Love and Other Drugs finally gives into the temptation with the concluding line “You meet one person … and your life is changed forever.”
REWATCHABILITY: It would be fun to re-visit this couple’s chemistry, and to pick up on any more commentary the film has to say about the pharmaceutical drug industry.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have great chemistry, and both are best in the movie when they are working together. The biggest problem of Love and Other Drugs is that it can’t decide if it wants to put these characters in a cruel reality, or just in a cushy romantic comedy that happens to have strong bits of seriousness. It has a couple of scenes that give a Thank You For Smoking-like look into the business, but on the other hand it also has typical romantic comedy elements like a spunky side character (Jamie’s brother), a downfall to a relationship followed by a weepy regret-filled montage, etc.
The indecisiveness of the script undermines either story option, and leaves the whole of the film somewhere in between the two. Love and Other Drugs is best taken in its metaphorical form, with the relationship of this couple meant to represent the fickle relationships we have with drug companies and healthcare when it comes to getting what we really need for life.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10