Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Love & Other Drugs

LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (Edward Zwick, 2010)

LOVE & OTHER DRUGS opens in 1996 with charismatic electronics salesman Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) out of a job due to his influential way with women, especially one he shouldn’t be charming. He transitions into a job as a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer and is assigned to sell Zoloft in the Ohio Valley.

While posing as an intern and trying to persuade a doctor to switch from prescribing Prozac to the pill he’s pushing, Jamie meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). Initially she is angered that Jamie violates her privacy in the doctor’s examination room, but his persuasiveness and mutual desire for a commitment-free relationship win her over while she also keeps him at arm’s length. Maggie has early onset of Parkinson’s and doesn’t wish to be obligated to anyone or anything long term.

Among the medications involved in LOVE & OTHER DRUGS is a certain little blue pill that Jamie sells like gangbusters when it reaches the marketplace. Strange how for a movie about a Viagra salesman, we don’t see the growth of the characters. Several featured scenes in the bedroom leave Jamie and Maggie’s physical chemistry undisputed, but evidence of their emotional attachment and development is far less obvious. Jamie begins to change because the screenplay demands it. Maggie opposes any deviations in their arrangement because the script insists so.

The film’s central relationship wouldn’t feel so prescribed if LOVE & OTHER DRUGS weren’t pitched at a sitcom level. Rather than allowing two non-conformists to find their own way, director and co-writer Edward Zwick makes sure they are altered to fit the formula. Gyllenhaal looks and feels too young for the role and seems too eager to please for the incorrigible type he’s supposed to be.

Whereas Gyllenhaal is all surface level, Hathaway suggests a flesh and blood being dealing with a multitude of issues spoken and unspoken. Performance-wise she fares better, perhaps because Maggie functions as the redeemer than the redeemed. The role is more complicated than the usual dreamgirl. Unfortunately the film is more interested in her slick, straightforward other half. LOVE & OTHER DRUGS is a cutesy love story tempered by an illness and a smidgen of commentary about pharmaceutical sales in the United States.

Grade: C-

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