Edward Zwick, the man who brought us films like Glory, Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai and Defiance, brings us Love And Other Drugs, a vast departure from the type of films we usually see from him. Based on the non-fiction book, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy, Zwick takes us into the romantic dramedy area with his latest film. Starring the always likeable Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, whose star is quickly rising, Zwick has two bankable actors to rest the film on. But how does it all turn out?
The film follows Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), a smooth talking ladies man who works as a medical representative for Pfizer in the world of pharmaceutical sales. His job is going around to various doctors, trying to convince them to prescribe Zoloft and Zithromax. Being the lady killer he is, he’s quite good at his job. Easily working receptionists and secretaries to allow them to let him have access to their doctors. One day while trying to get a doctor to switch to Zoloft instead of Prozac, he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a free spirited woman who is suffering from early onset of Parkinson’s disease. Turning on his charm, he is able to arrange a date with her and their relationship grows from there. As they become closer, they realize that they may be suffering from the ultimate drug, love. And this presents a problem since Maggie has Parkinsons, and it’s only getting worse.
Casting Hathaway and Gyllenhaal in the lead roles helps the film tremendously. They’re both likeable, watchable, photogenic and charming actors who craft great chemistry together. They turn in fully realized and believable characters. Hathaway offers an affecting, piercing and touching performance. She makes us feel Maggie’s pain and brings us into her suffering. Gyllenhaal exudes fantastic charisma, as usual and his seduction and sweetness sizzle on screen as he playfully wins Maggie’s heart. He also has some great comedic timing that provides for a lot of laughs.
Supporting actors are also great, offering lots of entertainment. Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt share the screen again for the first time since the brilliant Showtime show Huff, and Josh Gad shows up in a few scenes to give the film some real comedic power. The energy of the entire cast drives the film into funny, charming and touching territory. It’s unfortunate though that many of the supporting characters didn’t receive adequate screen time, leading to poor character development, which makes it hard to care for them.
Love and Other Drugs is a romance for adults. Not just because there is a lot of nudity and sex, but also because it steers away from the far too prevalent ‘teen romance’ genre. Now that’s not to say it doesn’t fall into any conventions, but by escaping the teen chick flick realm it certainly feels a lot more refreshing. It shows us that love doesn’t come easy and with it, arrives a lot of problems and conflicts that are found in everyday life. By breaking the mold so to speak, and offering a more honest and real look at love, Love and Other Drugs becomes a romantic comedy that is actually worth seeing. Like I said, there are still a couple cliches that rear their ugly head, and things do get a bit too melodramatic but on the whole, it doesn’t hurt the film all that much.
One issue I had with the film was that it tries really hard to be a searing look into the drug industry, by exploring the amorality of it. The problem is, the film never really fully explores these themes, leaving that part of the movie feeling almost perfunctory. The film comes off as confused, does it want to be a love story or a satirical look at the pharmecuetical industry? It has lofty narrative goals, but it just doesn’t quite reach them. It could have been a smart satire, along the lines of Thank You For Smoking, but it never quite gets there. It just feels uneven at times and probably would have worked better without the pharmaceutical backdrop.
Love and Other Drugs isn’t a perfect film, and Zwick has certainly done better, but for what it is, it’s mostly watchable. While it struggles to decide what it wants to be, the two leads do a great job of holding it all together. There are some truly funny, touching and entertaining moments, and although the film likely won’t be remembered long after you see it, it would make good material for a date or a rainy day. Though not entirely memorable, it’s still worth a watch.
Love and Other Drugs has lofty narrative goals, but it just doesn't quite reach them. It could have been a smart satire, along the lines of Thank You For Smoking, but it never quite gets there.