Theatrical Review: Love and Other Drugs may not get to all the places it tries to go, but with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in an all-out battle of the Big Sexy Eyes and the Devastating Smiles it’s easy to forgive the rom-com-satire-dramedy its flaws and go along for the ride.
Love and Other Drugs chases several dramatic goals: It’s a satiric swipe at the amusing but less-than-noble practices of Big Pharmaceutical sales reps; it’s a sweet and sassy rom-com with two very sexy stars; it’s an often honest look at relationship and emotional hang-ups; and it’s a heavy exploration of the very serious issues facing any person or couple dealing with a chronic, devastating disease.
That writer-director Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall) fails to fully cover all those bases isn’t surprising–but thanks to his lead actors, it’s not fatal either.
Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a cocky, good-looking player who’s long-since learned that sex—namely his own sly, aw-shucks smolder—can sell anything to anyone. That makes Jamie a perfect fit as a Pfizer pharmaceutical rep during the gold-rush ‘90s, when the marketing and sales of drugs like Zoloft (and later Viagra) became more important than pesky medical questions like “Is the drug any good?” and “Does this patient really need it?”
That part of Love and Other Drugs—about how seductive and manipulative sales reps, not doctors, ended up driving drug prescriptions–is drawn primarily from the real-life Randall’s 2005 non-fiction book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.
However, in order to add some emotional heft to all those erectile-dysfunction jokes, Zwick and co-writers Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz (Zwick’s Thirtysomething co-creator) have given the fictional Jamie some commitment issues and a Love-Story-esque love story with Hathaway’s Maddie Murdock. Maddie’s an ungodly fetching, sharp-tongued, whip-smart, free-spirit artist in the Mary-Louise Parker mold. Who also has early on-set Parkinson’s.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, re-teaming from Brokeback Mountain, have so damn much sexual chemistry (and so few clothes on), I quickly cried “uncle” and let their mutual charms carry Love and Other Drugs over some of its weaker spots. (Including a soundtrack that sadistically, intentionally serves up the worst of ‘90s music.)
It doesn’t hurt that the actors easily dish out super-sexy charisma and sad-broken-anger in equal doses–Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are put through their paces–comedic, romantic, and dramatic—and they come out shining. Hathaway especially plays Maddie’s increasingly debilitating illness with brutal honesty.
Things are also livened up by the film’s fine supporting cast, including great vets like Hank Azaria, Judy Greer, and Oliver Platt. Aryan-jawed Gabriel Macht makes a decent alpha-male business and romantic rival for Jamie, and the film’s a spotlight for up-and-comer Josh Gad (Woke Up Dead)–Gad plays Jamie’s slobbering, sobbing brother with fine Belushi-style buffoonery.
Love and Other Drugs does pull a bait and switch on the viewer, luring you into a slinky, fun rom-com (from the director of About Last Night) and then suddenly hauling out the the crying towel (from the creators of Thirtysomething).
But along the way Zwick digs at genuine issues involving living with illness—big problems for both the sick and their significant others that don’t come with easy answers. Unfortunately his film never really sticks with any of the more painful realities it brings up, choosing instead a vaguely uplifting “who knows what the future holds” ending.
Love and Other Drugs may not be entirely sure where it’s going, but with Gyllenhaal and Hathaway all over the screen and each other, I didn’t mind the thematic meandering. Turns out big eyes and smiles win out in the end, even over doubt and disease.
More from redbox with the cast of Love and Other Drugs:
- Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland and Valentine’s Day
- Jake Gyllenhaal in Brothers and Prince of Persia on DVD and Blu-ray
- Oliver Platt in Please Give, Letters to Juliet, and 2012
- Josh Gad in Woke Up Dead
More complicated grown-up romances from redbox:
- Eat Pray Love
- An Education
- Just Wright
- Love and Distrust
- Remember Me
- My Name is Khan
- Dear John
- It’s Complicated