film – about sex and romance during the pharmaceutical boom of the 1990s –
is ironically just a tiny bit schizophrenic itself. In fact, it could be
said to have a complete split personality, going from light sexy farce to
much heavier drama in the blink of an eye.
still mostly a very good film, although I will admit that I personally
preferred the breezy first half to the more maudlin coda. However, even the
ending worked for the most part.
Created by TV vets Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (they created
intelligent and funny dramas like thirtysomething and Once and
Again together), Love and Other Drugs also straddles the line of
humor and seriousness.
starts simply enough, in the mid 90s, Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a
slacker lothario, unable to hold a job but with a tremendous ability to pick
up the ladies. Eventually, his brother (Josh Gad) – a young and immature
dot-com millionaire – hooks him up with a position as a drug salesperson for
Pfizer. (This is right before the explosion of the occupation – before it
was taken over by model-hot “sales reps” and the salaries
hit the stratosphere.)
handsome and charming guy, Jamie has a certain amount of success getting
through the nurses to the doctors; however he is having trouble selling his
Zoloft samples once he gets through. He gets into a bitter competition with
a rival salesman who is pimping Prozac. (Interestingly, all the company and
drug names are real here – I wonder how the drug companies will feel about
this representation of their business.)
While pretending to be an intern to promote his drugs, Jamie meets Maggie
(Anne Hathaway), a beautiful but emotionally distant woman who is in the
early phases of Parkinson’s disease. They fall into a very steamy but
shallow sexual relationship – in which the actors are often physically and
emotionally exposed – but they both refuse to let it get serious.
(Interesting side note: the last time that Hathaway did nudity in a film was
the last time she worked with Gyllenhaal, in Brokeback Mountain. I’m
not suggesting this means anything other than the fact that they are
comfortable working together, I’m just noting it.)
this no-strings relationship is progressing, Pfizer creates Viagra. Seeing
the opportunity in it, Jake throws himself behind the product (explaining
correctly that he was the ideal person to push a boner pill) and soon he has
become rich and powerful in his industry.
course, with the basic premise of the film it can’t stay on such light
footing and the second half of the film is significantly more serious than
the first as Maggie’s disease progresses – not necessarily a worse movie
(though I guess it sort of is) but definitely more overwrought.
fact, even the soundtrack style changes; going from kitschy popular 90s hits
like Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and “The
Macarena” to sensitive alt-folk like Beck’s “Jackass” and Regina Spektor’s
However, this is not the first time a romantic comedy took a sharp right
turn into more serious drama and this particular story has more cause for
the dark overtones than most.
later scenes can be a little hard to watch because they are so specifically
calculated to tug the heartstrings – a scene where she goes to a Parkinson’s
support group or scenes where he vainly tries to get her the best medical
support money can buy.
However, we like both of the characters and do want them to succeed and find
of me – the cynical part, granted – wonders if it was necessary to give her
character the affliction in the first place or if it was a calculated
attempt to turn a cute little love story into more of a tragedy. Personally
I’m not sure if it was necessary, but that is not the movie that they have
made. Even if the later sections of Love and Other Drugs do feel
just a bit manipulative, it is still a sweet and sad story
mostly told very well.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: December 3, 2010.