REVIEW: Love & Other Drugs [2010]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: R | Runtime: 112 minutes | Release Date: November 24th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director(s): Edward Zwick
Writer(s): Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz /
Jamie Reidy (book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman)

“Were you molested by a Care Bear?”

What do you do when you read something about a movie that appears to ruin a key ingredient the trailer doesn’t show? You get pissed. I know I did when I read—yes, I’m going to tell you—that Anne Hathaway’s character Maggie in Love & Other Drugs has Parkinson’s. Here I thought the film looked like an above average rom/com and I get blindsided by this disease that has to end up playing a huge role in what goes on. And it does, the fact she is sick plays a huge factor in the story, but not in the way I thought it would. The Parkinson’s revelation isn’t some cheap twist or tearjerker cliché; it is a major component to who Maggie Murdock is as a person, a woman, and a lover. She has built this wall around her, unable to let anyone close who will find himself regretting the decision and therefore resenting her in the future. She doesn’t want to be cared for because she doesn’t want to put anyone in that inevitable position. To know she has it ruins nothing.

The trailer focuses so much on Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie’s self-absorbed rise to the top of pharmaceutical sales and personal thawing by this great, sexy woman, that it glosses over how much love changes her as well. There ends up being two fully formed and complicated adults who find out that the ability to care for someone can alter their entire view on life. This simple point vaults the film to a level most rom/coms don’t deserve to be at, let alone achieve success in. But then it isn’t really a romantic comedy per se. I do vaguely remember how when the project was announced, it was called the Viagra movie. That was the premise, a look at the rise of that little blue pill in society. Hell, Edward Zwick, a man who works on historical epics like Glory, The Last Samurai, and Defiance, not only directs, but also has a screenwriting credit here. Love & Other Drugs was never meant to be a chick flick to throw away and forget; it was to have substance and a story to tell on the surface and the core. Unfortunately, the trailer shows only shows the one note.

To be honest, the whole Viagra aspect does take a backseat to the love story without ever disappearing. It’s an integral role, and not only by being the occupation Jamie Randall finally sticks with after failures in other sales jobs due to sleeping with coworkers and spouses of the boss. Jamie and Maggie meet on his drug call to a doctor’s office; his need to know the products, their uses and side effects, makes him need to find a cure for this sick woman he’s falling for; she takes senior citizens to Canada for cheap prescription medication; and he, the medical school dropout, cultivates connections in friends, business partners, and sex maniacs by being on the inside of the industry. Drugs become an indelible part of their relationship as they add to fears of loneliness and create opportunities for Jamie that scare Maggie into thinking he has too much reason to leave. He is a jerk after all; that is why she first liked him. He was the king of empty sex with his charming smile, direct eye contact, and pick-up techniques that actually worked. She wanted companionship; anything more was too much and she knew he had the capacity to be good.

They discover exactly what they are behind the defense mechanisms and facades exposed. It is here where the film becomes better than it may deserve. Both Gyllenhaal and, especially, Hathaway breathe life into these easily stereotypical tropes. His vapid man-whore and her bitchy independent would have become trite and boring had lesser actors taken the roles. Instead, they create three dimensional characters that you actually empathize and pull for, hoping they get their heads out of their asses long enough to realize what they have together. It is in the script that situations come up to naturally progress the relationship from a fling, to friends with benefits, to partners, to a couple, to the eventual panic attack inducing utterance of the words ‘I love you’, but it’s the performances that allow us to believe each step. Real issues come into play and not the usual hamfisted, crazy situations that scream contrivance. We see Gabriel Macht’s Trey to know what Jamie could become and we witness Stage Four Parkinson’s patients to know what she has waiting. The story lets us find out whether those things matter.

Love, as a result, ends up being the most important drug in play, wiping symptoms of depression, ego, and whatever other ailments with the habit of keeping people alone away. The other drugs are the driving force to get them in the position to discover they’re no longer needed. The drugs follow the humorous supporting roles like Hank Azaria’s doctor, Oliver Platt’s pharmaceutical sales guru, Judy Greer’s receptionist, and Josh Gad’s younger brother to Jamie. Well, actually, Gad’s role is kind of irrelevant and merely a vehicle for cheap laughs—not that that’s a problem. They all have moments to shine with some form of monologue to make us believe they’re real people too; words of medical reformation, insurance company iron fists, and woes about living in love versus living in sex. There is meaning to what goes on as even Hathaway’s gratuitous nudity—yes, guys are going to agree to watch on those merits alone—is to show comfort in the relationship, not to titillate like Katheryn Winnick’s gorgeous ‘Lisa’ who keeps her bra on. As much as Love & Other Drugs is by the numbers, it is also authentic enough so we don’t care. It’s the story of Jamie and Maggie—the rest doesn’t matter.


photography:
[1] Free spirits Maggie (Anne Hathaway) and Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) are surprised to find themselves under the influence of the ultimate drug – love – in the emotional comedy LOVE & OTHER DRUGS. Photo credit: David James – TM and © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.
[2] Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal, right) is none too pleased with the antics of his younger brother – and new roommate — Josh (Josh Gad). Photo credit: Ron Batzdorff – TM and © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.
[3] Anne Hathaway stars as Maggie Murdock and Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie Randall in 20th Century Fox’s Love and Other Drugs (2010)

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