Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal star in 'Love & Other Drugs': movie review
Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are the main draws in 'Love & Other Drugs,' a weepie that wastes an opportunity to look at medical malfeasance.
David James/20th Century Fox/AP
As â€śLove & Other Drugsâ€ť demonstrates, the trouble with movies that try to be all things to all people is that they end up being not altogether anything for anybody.
Set in 1996, itâ€™s a lumpy grab bag of comedy and tragedy, of spirits high and low, with more than a modicum of sex. The almost retro photogenic allure of stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway is the real subject (and drawing power) of the movie.
On the plus side, both actors, particularly Gyllenhaal, are more unbound (no pun intended) than weâ€™ve seen them before. He plays Jamie Randall, a hot-shot Pfizer pharmaceutical rep whose rampant womanizing comes to a screeching halt when he encounters Hathawayâ€™s Maggie Murdock, an artist who has early onset Parkinsonâ€™s disease. (They meet when he sneaks a peek at her breast during a medical exam.)
Maggie turns out to be a female version of the presmitten Jamie â€“ she wants sex with no attachments. Inevitably, she becomes attached. Weâ€™re supposed to think sheâ€™s been holding out because, given her prognosis, she doesnâ€™t want to fall in love. But Maggie, to Hathawayâ€™s credit, looks like she was born nobodyâ€™s fool.
The early scenes between Jamie and Maggie are the filmâ€™s best. Freed up from gallivanting with CGI effects Ă la â€śPrince of Persia,â€ť Gyllenhaal is refreshingly, disarmingly boyish. Jamie makes his living hustling Zoloft, and, triumphantly, Viagra, to mercenary physicians like Hank Azariaâ€™s Dr. Knight, but heâ€™s essentially an innocent. Thatâ€™s why Maggie, wised-up and afflicted, gets to him, and itâ€™s also why, once they are a couple, he goes a little crazy trying to track down a cure for Parkinsonâ€™s.
If director Edward Zwick and his coscreenwriters Marshall Herskovitz and Charles Randolph, had focused on Jamieâ€™s transformation from gadabout to crusader and jettisoned all the glib, not-so-crowd-pleasing shenanigans along the way, they might have come up with something more lasting than a glorified sitcom misted over with tears. (The source material is Jamie Reidyâ€™s nonfiction memoir â€śHard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.â€ť) But too often the big emotional trajectories, such as Jamieâ€™s feverish medical skullduggery, are presented as high-speed montages â€“ as if the audience would be bored otherwise.
And do we really need Jamieâ€™s slobbo brother (Josh Gad) as a running gag? Heâ€™s a sop to the goony, sub-Apatow crowd. We also donâ€™t need quite so many shots of googly-eyed females (such as the medical receptionist played by Judy Greer) eyeing Jamie as if he was fresh meat. This sort of thing went out with Dean Martin and 007.
What we could do with more of is the filmâ€™s attack, albeit with kid gloves, on the collusion between doctors and Big Pharma. Zwick is known for socially conscious political epics like â€śBlood Diamondâ€ť and â€śDefiance,â€ť so his alternately goofy and somber, once-over-lightly approach to medical malfeasance seems like a wasted opportunity â€“ especially since the filmâ€™s forced levity and echoes from â€śLove Storyâ€ť arenâ€™t exactly an adequate trade off.
The filmmakers were clearly hellbent on not making a movie-of-the-week weepie. But at least those weepies carry the conviction of their own mass-appeal sentimentality. They may be egregious but they donâ€™t try to be anything more than they are. â€śLove & Other Drugsâ€ť is a slick weepie made by smart guys who want you to know theyâ€™re better than the schlockmeisters. Theyâ€™ve outsmarted themselves. Grade: B- (Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material.)
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