Nov 2010 24

Love and Other Drugs is the latest from Ed Zwick and features a couple of great lead performances in a story that does a lot of things well but has a hard time finding a narrative through line.

Zwick is a history buff and likes to blend fiction with facts and this is another example of that approach; only this time it is not an action film but a raw romantic comedy as his template.  The history surrounding our story is the pharmaceutical industry in the late 90’s and a certain little blue pill that changed the industry.  Following an up and coming phrama rep, Jamie Randall, who has a long list of jobs never quite living up to his potential he finds his stride selling drugs to doctors.  While trying to swoon one doctor, Jamie, meets a girl, Maggie, with Parkinson’s and the two, of course, begin to fall for each other.  Their rode is not an easy one though and they find sex is the thing that comes easiest to the two of them.

The film is a solid effort as a comedy, a romance, a critique on the pharmaceutical industry, an admonishment of our health care system, a Parkinson’s awareness film, a crude comedy, it does a lot well, you just never can figure out what it wants to be.  There are a lot of worthy and noble ideas in here but none of them are fully fleshed out and the narrative never knows which one to embrace.

At its heart it is a raw, sweet, and sexy romance that isn’t afraid to embrace all three of those adjectives.  The sex scenes are hot, funny, with neither Jake Gyllenhaal nor Anne Hathaway being the least bit shy and the quiet moments are tender, unconventional, and never stereotypical rom-com affair.  It is a solid adult romance with a lighter side that we haven’t seen since Jerry Maguire.  Fans of that film will embrace this one as well I imagine as their tones and structures are rather similar.

It really is a shame though that Zwick couldn’t figure out his message as the talent and ideas of this film really could have carried this to become something great.  Zwick executes a lot of solid pieces to the puzzle but can’t quite stick them together which luckily still leaves him with an enjoyable little film.

I have mentioned the actors in this film, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, and both of them deliver some of their better work of their careers.  Hathaway’s character doesn’t get as much range to work with as Gyllenhaal but she might best him in nailing their character.  Having to show weakness both emotionally and physically, Hathaway shines and really makes a believable character in Maggie.  Gyllenhaal is a more larger than life character here and gets to have fun and be a bit of goof as he sells the farce in the film well.  Showing a broad range Gyllenhaal, like the film, does all them well but never really blows you away with any particular part.  Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt both provide some fine supporting roles in the film but neither character is given a full blown arc to really have a substantial impact.  Josh Gad is also quite funny in the film but, like the previous mentioned roles, his character/plot are even more oddly present and feel like they are from another film entirely; too his credit he is still quite funny though.

In the end, Love and Other Drugs is a solid affair that’s own confusion holds it back.  A pack of solid actors do fine work conveying a lot of fine ideas, the film just never is able to find its voice to elevate its material.  It is nice to see Hathaway shine and I have always enjoyed Gyllenhaal and the material is adult enough to be a breath of fresh air for that demo at the box office to breathe a sigh of relief.  So if you are looking for an entertaining and sexy romance that appeals to both sexes then there is no need to look beyond this film as this fits the bill.  It sadly doesn’t hit the high notes it hopes for but it is a very worthy date movie for the grown ups out there.

Love and Other Drugs is a B


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