Thursday, 6 January 2011

Love and Other Drugs

2010. Dir: Ed Zwick. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria and Josh Gad. ●●●○○

If the thought of seeing lots of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in the buff was what attracted to you to Love and Other Drugs then I have to say you won't be totally disappointed, there are boobs and bums all over the place, but not once does the flesh on screen seem gratuitous, indeed it's a film focussing on a relationship that (initially anyway) is based purely on the sexual connection and - forgive me if I'm unnatural - generally you're naked when you're having sex. The fact that I'm talking about the nudity at this point is rather odd, the film has been marketed heavily on the premise that Jake and Anne are naked a lot and this may well have clouded what this story is all about.

Here is where I agree with the marketing team, you can't isolate one strand that the film is about because it tries to be so many things it ens up falling over trying to please itself. It's a sex comedy, an expose of the pharmaceutical industry and Love Story rehash all in one; and that simply doesn't all gel together.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, master salesman and legendary lover, who meets bohemian waitress Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) and whilst he's climbing up the greasy pole of pharmaceutical sales just around the introduction of Viagra she's coping with early onset Parkinson's disease (not that you can tell apart from the odd finger wiggle). They both start off not wanting a fully fledged relationship because they're both terrible afraid of bing abandoned but of course one develops and then they must learn to cope with the way things are.

Most of the satirical parts work well, Gyllenhaal and Oliver Platt as his supervisor, have a wonderfully crass on-screen chemistry and you they are scenes when you truly wonder how far these companies will go to ensure their product is prescribed. Enter Hank Azaria as a horndog doctor whose medical ethics extend to lying to patients, accepting bribes and prescribed whichever drug that the company will guarantee him getting laid. He has a nice speech about integrity later in the flm, utterly wasted in the background of a pajama party. In fact these sections come across as a medical Thank you for Smoking and perhaps had director Ed Zwick, who's TV experience with comedies such as "thirtysomething" and "My so-called life" has proved very useful.

The other sections don't work nearly as well. Hathaway simply doesn't convince as a Parkinson's patient, as a reluctant lover or even as a waitress. There's also a scene with real sufferer's talking about their illness which frankly belongs in another movie.

You wonder if the whole thing would have worked better if Maggie was just a girl disgusted by the industry who slowly taught Randall the error of his ways? (And yes I know it's based on a true story but surely they could have ignored that part for the sake of dramatic cohesion).

Overall I would say this is part of a good movie, interesting to get an insight into drug culture and miles above any other romantic comedy I've seen this year, but messy unfocused and stretched too far to work.


TomS said...

I sure do agree with you, Ben, that this movie tried to be too many things. The crass humor in the context of a tragic love story was offensive; the satire about the pharmacerutical industry was sadly underderveloped.

Your review is much better than the movie deserves! :)

For different reasons, we both are mixed on this one. I like it less as I think about it more.

Runs Like A Gay said...

There aren't many movies that fail because they try to be too many things (it's hard enough to be one thing) so kudos for trying, but the talent involved should've guaranteed better than this.