Three not-so-great—and some great—things about ‘Love And Other Drugs’
As a pharmaceutical drug pusher Jake Gyllenhaal is feisty in Love And Other Drugs, based on Jamie Reidy’s memoir, “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.” Co-starring Anne Hathaway as a commitment phobic with a serious illness, the film takes place in the late ’90s, just as Viagra was about to rise to the occasion. But does the film? Behold: three bad and good things about the movie:
It’s Not ‘About Last Night’
Although, at times, this outing smacks of the hit ’80s film of the same name starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. That movie was able to wonderfully weave together a tale of sexual politics. This one—not quite. Love And Other Drugs see-saws from an outlandish buddy comedy and a statement on the emotional fragility of relationships, in general. When it dips into the latter, it works. When soars carelessly the other way, they’ve lost you.
Buddy Me Not
In the film, Gyllenhaal’s character has a rich younger bro who hardly looks related to him at all. The character (Josh Gad), while amusing, seems purposely put in the film to be an antagonist. Fun, at times, but hardly believable.
This is Jake Gyllenhaal’s first romantic comedy. Maybe the pressure was on, or maybe he was trying to convincingly play Reidy, whose character in the film has ADD. Regardless, Jake is good here, but the writing and directing (by Edward Zwick) gives him too many scenes where he’s constantly reacting to external stimulus—whether it be a four-hour erection, a slammed hand, a bump into the door. Whew. Tired yet? Note to director Zwick: Less, baby, is so much more.
Angelina and Brad they’re not. Nor are they Jennifer and Owen (Marley and Me), or Carrie and Big (Sex And The City)— thank God. A delicious surprise—Jake and Anne have surprisingly great chemistry together.
But It’s Anne’s Movie
It may appear that this is Jake’s big opportunity to show off his comedic skills—and J, we forgive you now for Prince of Persia—but Hathaway, surely primed for an Oscar some day, is the beating heart of the tale. Her ailing Maggie is well played and wins you over—annoyances and all. Hathaway makes the film.
Good news. Nobody dies. Hathaway’s Maggie is still intact by film’s end. But for a story that begins with more spastic overtones than you care to experience, Love And Other Drugs redeems itself because it allows us to trace the emotional evolution of both its lead characters—Anne has an illness and doesn’t want to commit; Jake’s a playboy. That it comes across as believable is, well, remarkable. This is modern cinema, so I don’t expect all movies marketed to mass audiences to bravely avoid going over the top and remain near a more heartfelt, realistic center. Dear God—how would this affect the ADD Tweeters out there? But in the final moments of the film, you realize that Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have held your interest long enought to care enough about what happens to them next.
And that’s good medicine.
Love And Other Drugs
★★1/2 (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>
With Jake Gyllenhall, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt and Josh Gad. A Twentieth Century Fox release. Rated R.