November 29, 2010

Movie Review: Love and Other Drugs

loveandotherdrugs1_largeFrom the trailers this looked like a typical romantic comedy with a couple of recognizable faces in the lead roles, a couple of guys thrown in for comic relief, and a few touching/comedic moments. You know the sort. The kind of romantic comedy that fancies itself a borderline drama, gives a few smiles, perhaps tug at a few tears and leave you with a smile at the end.

There is nothing new or particularly special in the story of Love and Other Drugs. It is a pretty standard romantic comedy. What makes it work is primarily the performance of Ann Hathaway. Jake Gyllenhaal is all right, but I do not always buy is schtick. In any case, the movie, while not original, is better than the trailers would have you believe. It is a little more heartfelt, or at least pays lip service to being heartfelt. Now that I think about it, I think it may be more lip service than actual being.

The movie centers on Gyllenhaal's Jamie Randall, a slick pharmaceuticals salesman who uses his knack for selling anything to work his way into meaningless sex. Then, while posing as an intern to get closer to a potential customer, he meets Maggie Murdock (sounds like a comic book character), played by Hathaway. He is intrigued and set out working his magic on her. Turns out he needn't as she is looking for the same thing. This is followed by their first (of many) sexual encounters.


While they are enjoying each other, we have Oliver Platt's Bruce urging Jamie on in his sales as well as Jamie's kid brother (who also happens to be rich) is crashing on his couch. Both provide comic relief, with the brother (played by Josh Gad) being the more vulgar of the bunch. There is no doubt this is an R-rated film.

Anyway, as formula would have it, the two actually have some chemistry and as things get serious there is the requisite misunderstanding/argument that splits them up until we get the happy conclusion. It really is all by the numbers without any genuine suspense. Interesting, the more I think about this movie the less I seem to like it following my initial optimism. It is not a bad movie, but just very typical.

There are a couple of things that make the movie stand out. First there is the time setting. It is the late 1990's and the dawn of the Viagra age is here. I am not sure why they chose this time frame, but there it is. Now, the real thing that makes this worth checking out is Hathaway's performance and the reason for her desire for meaningless sex.

I kind of don't want to say what it is, but I feel compelled to, so if you do not want this bit spoiled, stop reading.


The reason for her actions is that she has Parkinson's disease, early onset. It is manageable at this stage, but still she knows where this is going to go and she does not want to have any attachments, she does not want to rely on anyone. This is an interesting turn and it is equally interesting to see where it goes and how Jamie responds. Things happen, facts of the disease become known and it leads to tough decisions.

It has to be terrifying to have that on your head and it must give anyone pause before they seek a long term relationship. I really like the way that Hathaway plays the character. She brings true emotion and gravitas to the role. She is the main reason to see this.

Edward Zwick directed this and I have to admit to being a little surprised to see his name come up (I had not checked the director prior to seeing it). I am used to bigger films from him like The Last Samurai, Defiance, Legends of the Fall. and Glory. He does a decent job here, not is best work by a long shot, but it is different.

Bottomline. Not a bad movie, not a terribly good one either, but it does have an interesting dramatic arc. Hathaway turns in a fine performance, and I am intrigued by the decisions that need to be made, perhaps not how easily they are made, but still. It is worth checking out, just do not expect greatness.

Mildly Recommended.

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