Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Love and Other Drugs" (2010)

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Hank Azaria
Written by Edward Zwick, Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz
Directed by Edward Zwick
Rated R - Language, sex, nudity
Running Time: 112 Minutes

Love & Other Drugs [Blu-ray]Jaime Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a fantastic salesman. He uses his wit and charm to lure anyone into buying pretty much anything.  When he takes on a job at Pfizer in the mid 1990s, he struggles trying to convince local doctors that Zoloft is a better choice than Prozac.  One day while posing as an intern to try and get Doctor Sam Knight (Hank Azaria) to switch, he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a young artist/photographer who suffers from Parkinson's. 

Jamie manages to score a date with Maggie, but she's able to quickly read through all of his usual lines and moves and proposes that they simply get down to the part where they have sex.  Soon enough, the two are well and good fuck-buddies, with the understanding that they just have sex, and neither of them wants or needs anything more from the other.  But slowly, Jaime, who has never truly loved anyone in his whole life, finds himself falling completely head over heels for Maggie. 

Just as Jamie's career begins to explode after taking on the Viagra account, his relationship with Maggie begins to implode as she resists his attempts to fall into a more committed relationship.  Eventually, he begins to go overboard trying to get her the latest and greatest treatments for her Parkinson's, and even though she loves him, she can't allow herself to get into a relationship that would require so much sacrifice from someone else. 

"Love and Other Drugs" is something of a mixed bag.  It has a lot of interesting ideas floating around inside of it, some really funny moments and witty dialogue and great performances... but it also hits every beat in the Romantic Comedy Playbook, without fail.  It's the same fall in love/misunderstanding/make-up routine that 95 percent of other romantic films out there go for, which is really unfortunate because everything else about "Love and Other Drugs" is pretty first-rate. 

If only the script had spent more time on the twisty ethics of pharmaceutical business, which it does mention quite a bit but never really delves into with any real depth.  Instead the focus is purely on the emotional growth of Jaime and Maggie, which is totally fine, except for the fact that the plot is so standard.  Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have great chemistry together, and they really do sell the relationship.  I just can't help but be disappointed that the second half of the film is so entirely obvious, since things start off really quite well. 

The film's tone veers wildly from comedic to serious, but it mostly feels pretty natural and right for the characters.  Jaime's relationship with his very rich software mogul brother Josh (Josh Gad) is pretty hilarious, and there are a lot of awkward moments between them to elicit laughs, such as when Jaime catches Josh watching a sex tape he'd made with Maggie, or the embarrassing trip home from a "pajama party" when one of them suffers from a reaction to the Viagra. 

Maggie's struggle with Parkinson's is respectful and well-played, and the film has one particularly moving scene where Maggie meets other Parkinson's patients at a medical convention in Chicago.  Hathaway plays it well, too, never falling into the realm of parody, never "going full-retard," though the script doesn't require her to as Maggie is in the early stages of the disease.  Her worry is that later on, she'll be too much of a drain on others, that she can't ask them to take the responsibility of caring for her, that it's simply unfair and too much to ask.  As a result, it keeps her from developing lasting emotional connections.  What she doesn't realize is that Jaime suffers a similar problem - having grown up in a fiercely competitive home, he can't believe anyone would ever think he's good enough to keep around.  The idea, of course, is that these two are absolutely perfect for each other.

And thanks to the performances from Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, we totally believe that they are.  "Love and Other Drugs" is so close to being a great film, but it falters in one key aspect.  As it stands, "Love and Other Drugs" is quite enjoyable, very worth watching, but you'll be able to call each and every one of its shots a mile away.  This lessened my enjoyment of the film, but didn't kill it.  It's a very respectable entry into the filmography of everyone involved, but it doesn't quite hit a home run.