Love and Other Drugs Reviews
It's a strange, complex scenario: The dawn of Viagra sales opens up new possibilities while one character's Parkinson's disease creates a battle between love and self-pity. Ultimately this film is never terribly heart-wrenching. Instead it holds out the promise of hope.
The gravity surrounding her Parkinson's plot doesn't fully manifest itself until halfway through the movie, but it's done subtly so that Maggie's guttural scream after accidentally smashing her drink doesn't seem melodramatic. I've never heard that sound come out of Anne Hathaway before, and it was jarring but realistically so.
The smarmy, cutthroat world of pharmaceutical sales is also an interesting backdrop to this drug-addled romance.
Love and Other Drugs is bi-polar. It gradually transitions from fun and light to melodramatic and deathly serious, and I can't say that it manages that switch completely successfully. Some people will prefer the sexy fun of the first half (like me), and others will find the more emotional latter half to be more involving (not like me), but I doubt most will equally enjoy both parts (I didn't). And one of the main characters is probably one of the most annoying ever written, and the movie would have automatically been about 10% better without him in it (has Josh Gad ever been even slightly funny in anything?).
Other than that stuff, Love and Other Drugs is pretty decent. The characters are interesting and semi-realistic, it avoids being excessively sappy or predictable (at least, until the end), and Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway have chemistry coming out the wazoo.
Love and Other Drugs could have been something awesome, but it fails to live up to its full potential by eventually giving in to the same worn tropes that 75% of the movies in this genre slavishly adhere to. It's still worth checking out if you're curious, though.
Entertaining and interesting storyline.
Based on Jamie Reidy's memoir Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, this romantic-comedy is certainly a change of pace for Zwick. After spending the past decade on wide-screen actioners such as Blood Diamond, Defiance and The Last Samurai, the director returns to his old 30 Something stomping ground, but he is not as adept at handling the emotional relationships as you would think.
A film about the astonishing rise of Viagra is hard to resist. The comic potential is obvious, but by adding romance, a debilitating disease and numerous other sub-plots into the mix, the crux of the film is lost in a flurry of pill popping and naked flesh.
Case in point: his latest attempt at romantic comedy, the sloppy, sticky "Love and Other Drugs." Based on the bestselling memoir of Viagra drug rep Jamie Reidy, "Love" is a bipolar disorder waiting to happen - a sex comedy about a womanizing Pfizer salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain") that transmogrifies into a PSA about Parkinson's disease. This mutation begins Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married") comes into the picture, playing Maggie, a freeloving Manic Pixie Dream Girl with a crippling disease that gradually eats away at the crux of the storyline, tremor by tremor.
Films generally have a natural rhythm, a beat that carries them through strands of dialogue and scene changes with relative ease. This rhythm is exceptionally important in films with relatively little substance, i.e. romantic comedies, which need to balance out the rom from the com so that one doesn't swallow up the other in magnitude. But this isn't a problem for "Love and Other Drugs" - as it schizophrenically stutters through, it becomes increasingly clear that the film has none on both fronts anyway.
If "Love" is a slapstick sex comedy about Viagra, then why is it so unfunny? There are not one, not two, but three awkward, unattractive sidekicks (Oliver Platt of "2012," Hank Azaria of "The Simpsons Movie" and Josh Gad of "21," respectively) pawing at Gyllenhaal like puppies, throwing off lame penis jokes like ping-pong balls. When Zwick has exhausted his various references to erections and genitalia, he resorts to showing camera shots of actual erections and genitalia. This does not really lighten the mood.
But if "Love" is a Lifetime movie about Parkinson's disease, then why is it so emotionally vacant? Jamie never comprehends what Parkinson's actually is, as he stares straight past Maggie's blatantly shaking hands as she attempts to pick up her pills. The climax consists of a really obvious close-up into their tearstained faces while a husky-voiced Nina Simone in training wails in the background. Melodrama is fine in certain instances, but "Love" turns from funny to sad in a shift so overblown that it doesn't resemble soap as it does really disgusting, mushy goop.
None of this is helped by the fact that Zwick doesn't seem to have the slightest clue how to showcase simple human emotions. For him, love and mutual attraction equals filming lots and lots (and lots) of sex scenes. Jamie and Maggie don't talk to each other. They don't flirt with each other. Hell, they don't even look at each other for the most part, unless they're ripping off each other's clothes to have more sex. Three-quarters into the movie, Jamie starts hyperventilating uncontrollably and admits to the dumbstruck Maggie that he loves her. "I've never said that to anyone before," he gasps. This is the first time they've ever spoken to each other with their clothes on for more than 30 seconds, so count us among the surprised as well.
But thankfully, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway possess just enough natural chemistry to make their characters believable. Even if the majority of the time their "performances" consist of tangling their naked bodies together and making really loud sex sounds, they sparkle. With his delightfully rakish hair and lopsided smile crinkling up to his half-moon eyebrows, Gyllenhaal charms with a Clooney-esque role in a decidedly not Clooney-esque movie. Hathaway, fresh off a Best Actress nomination from "Rachel Getting Married," emotes a ragged sensuality that hints at more depth than Zwick tries to give us. Together, they've got the instincts to make magic in an otherwise flaccid movie. And after they brush the stench of "Love" off their collective shoulders, they need to make another movie together, stat. Or at least hook up in real life.
"Love and Other Drugs" is living proof that Zwick needs to stick to making films about Nazis or blood diamonds or basically whatever the hell doesn't have a female marketing extravaganza prestamped in the title. It takes good acting to push through suffocatingly affected dialogue and a director who has no idea how normal human beings interact with each other, and Gyllenhaal and Hathaway certainly do their best. But the fact of the matter remains: "Love" can't be saved - not by them, not by love and not by drugs.
I liked how this film was set in the mid-1990s and involved the pharmaceutical boom, specifically that of Viagra. It helped add something of interest to the tried and true formula rom-dram about too people who want to just keep things casual, but...well, darnit, they just can't. The story and script are a little weak though, but, like the direction, aren't so flawed that things are ruined.
I enjoyed this a fair amount, and could probably see myself watching it again sometime perhaps, but in the end, without the performances, this is totally forgettable. With the performances, it's only a bit more memorable, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't give it a try.