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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Love and Other Drugs Has Some Unfortunate Side Effects

Love and Other Drugs = 2 ½ out of 5
Jamie:  You have beautiful eyes.
Maggie:  That’s the best you got?
Love and Other Drugs is a simple romantic comedy-drama that tries to break away from its simple mold by having deeper parts of a story to explore as well as a hard R-rating.  Despite these elements, the film has problems with breaking away from the traditional formula along with balancing its tone.  Fortunately, both Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway bring enough talent to the film to keep it entertaining and sold on its performances.  These two make a good pair and do the film a service.  Still, the movie is fairly forgettable when all is said and done, because nothing much happens to create something more meaningful.

Set in 1996 (oh what a time to be alive), Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie Randall, a charming, young man and good with the ladies, who has just landed a job as a pharmaceuticals sales representative.  This means Jamie has to charm his way into the offices of doctors in order to recommend the pharmaceutical products he represents.  Jamie’s job eventually lands him in the office of Dr. Knight, played by Hank Azaria.  While not quite successful at first, as far as selling his product goes, Jamie does meet Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway); a free spirit who is looking for some no-strings attached lovin’, just like Jamie.  Let’s just pretend you do not know where this is going, and I will add that the two proceed with the lovin’, but eventually take things to the next level.  The added bonus is that Maggie has level one Parkinson’s disease, which makes her want to keep Jamie at a certain distance, despite how fond he has grown of her.  During this time, Jamie’s company develops Viagra (remember, this is 1996), which leads to more work success for Jamie.  Some big decisions are going to have to be made in order for this couple to work out there issues.

I can go into all of the reasons for why this film doesn’t succeed due to the ways it follows the same old formula in a second, but I need to point out one thing.  The film was co-written and directed by Edward Zwick.  Zwick is known for making large scale heroic movies such as Glory, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond, so I found it interesting that this was his latest project to tackle.  That being said, Zwick is a very confident filmmaker, so I can at least say that this film was quite well made from a technical standpoint, as little as there may be to recommend concerning that aspect.  It was also interesting to see some of the detail involved in getting the 90s setting right (almost seems weird that 90s period films are going to start happening).


As far as the rest of the film goes, one will not be surprised by how the plot is structured, but what does effect the film (though not enough) is the way the drama is incorporated.  Maggie’s disease and her issues with the idea of commitment are well placed into this film.  It may also feel fairly similar to other romantic plots, but the way it is handled is effective.  I only wish that the film stayed more consistent in tone when getting to the more dramatic levels, as opposed to trying to get the cheap laughs, still sporadically inserted throughout its third act.  There is a character, Jamie’s brother, played by Josh Gad, who is just fine at providing some comedic relief, but does so way too often when the film should be more focused on its heavier elements.  I can understand that dwelling in the dramatic territory could be too much for those just wanting a date movie, let alone all the background plot elements involving the pharmaceuticals sales business, but something needs to occur to make this film a little different, and not enough of that happens when all is said and done.

Both actors do a fine job, as mentioned.  Gyllenhaal can play charming quite well and Hathaway manages to emulate the free spirited girl person, which similar films have done, at her own convincing level.  I should probably award some bonus points to the fact that this is a very R-rated film due to its sexual content.  I point this out, because it is rare that you would see a big studio film with young A-list stars willing to be quite so exposed on film.  Fortunately, they are very attractive A-list stars, but these scenes manage to extend beyond gratuitousness (see what I did there).

Still, the film does not do itself any favors by following the same damn pattern.  I can accept that this is the kind of plot that many people like, and it does help that the performances are quite good, but I really felt nothing by the time it was over.  I saw it, got what I expected, and have little to say about it after the fact.  It is a nice movie and has a lot of nice scenes, including many that are quite funny, but that is all there really is.
Jamie:  I’m not running away.
Maggie:  It’s not your choice.

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