Review: LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS
When promoting a new film, studios can get downright sneaky. A good case in point is LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS. Movie and TV screens have been flooded with trailers and commercials touting it as a zany, romantic comedy. And the poster shows the cute stars gazing toward the camera in bed while strategically placed pillows cover up their “naughty bits”. True there is comedy and romance, but the film tackles several serious issues which may throw some filmgoers off balance. It’s a shame that the studio marketing didn’t think the public could handle some of the truly adult themes. I think these issues elevate the film above the fluff that’s being passed off as romantic comedies these days.
It’s 1996 and Jamie Randall(Jake Gyllenhaal) is an electronics salesman cruising by on his charm and good looks. After losing this job(the boss’s girlfriend!), Jamie’s internet millionaire brother Josh(Josh Gad) suggests that he look into the booming field of pharmaceutical sales. Soon he’s hired by Pfizer and sent on the road along with his supervisor Bruce(Oliver Platt) to hawk Zoloft. After finally getting in to see Dr. Knight(Hank Azaira), Jamie is allowed to follow the doc and tout his wares while posing as an intern. During a routine examination Jamie meets Maggie Murdock(Anne Hathaway), a Parkinson’s sufferer in need of a prescription refill. Later in the parking lot Maggie spies Jamie arranging his drug samples in his car trunk and proceeds to clobber him with her bag . After a clumsy apology, Jamie convinces her to meet for coffee and they soon wind up at her place for some “no strings attached” sex. On another visit to Dr. Knight’s, Jamie is beaten up in the parking lot again. This time by a rival salesman(and former boyfriend of Maggie) who discovered that Jamie was pitching his Valium samples and putting in Zoloft. Jamie’s about to throw in the towel until he hears from brother Josh(who’s moved in after a nasty divorce) that Pfizer’s about to unveil a new wonder drug: Viagra. At last he’s found the perfect product to pitch. Jamie quickly becomes a welcome visitor to all the clinics. While business is booming, Jamie still yearns to be with Maggie. She still avoids commitment while dealing with her Parkinson’s symptoms. Can these two crazy kids finally make it work and get together?
Surprisingly the typical Hollywood happy ending is not a foregone conclusion here. The Parkinson’s issue adds a great deal of gravity to these proceedings. We still only get to see Maggie in the early stages as she struggles to stop the shaking and grasp a pair of scissors. In one powerful scene Jamie talks to the husband of a Parkinson’s sufferer while at a Chicago sales meeting. The man admits that if he had it to do over he would not have married his wife as the strain of her deterioration is too much to handle. Unfortunately these dramatic pieces bump up against the clumsy comedy scenes involving crude, clueless doofus Josh who behaves like a Jack Black caricature. They deserved to be severely trimmed. The other supporting players shine especially Platt, Azaira, Judy Greer(s a ditzy receptionist) and as Jamie and Josh’s parents George Segal and ,in perhaps her last screen role, Jill Clayburgh. Hathaway and Gyllenhaal capitalize on the chemistry that first displayed together in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. They seem very comfortable together which helps make their many intimate scenes feel natural. I was quite surprised at the amount of their flesh displayed in a mainstream studio movie. Director Ed (GLORY)Zwick gets good performances from them, but does indulge in some romance movie clichés. After many arguments, break ups, and make ups the hero must race against the clock to profess his love ala JERRY MAGUIRE during a painfully awkward outdoor scene with the camera slowly zooming in as a busload of senior citizens look on. Still, Jake Gyllenhaal is becoming a confident leading man and Anne Hathaway shows her considerable acting skills with a very offbeat character. The movie’s got a lot going for it, and is much more interesting than the usual rom-com. It’s too bad that Hollywood didn’t think we moviegoers would discover that.
Overall Rating: Three and a Half Out of Five Stars