Love and Other Drugs
Directed by Edward Zwick
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Written by Charles Randolph / Edward Zwick
In a sort of reverse-Leo and Kate, who went from Titanic to the subversive Revolutionary Road, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway go from starring together as a tragically dysfunctional couple in Brokeback Mountain to now romanticizing and shaping a shiny “doomed love” image for the public in Love and Other Drugs. This downward move together puts both actors in a precarious position. If it’s even a mediocre romance, they suddenly become trustworthy stars. If it’s a bad movie it’s that much worse for them trying to pass themselves off as America’s Sweethearts and duping a willing audience. Unfortunately, if not obviously, this film falls squarely into the second category. What’s not yet obvious is how much this movie could damage these actors’ reputations, as neither seem to have the ability to elevate a script that desperately calls for air, and even more awkwardly, as one comes off having a markedly bigger talent than the other.
Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep in the film, and no pun intended with what turns out to be his main product, Viagra, but he’s the one who comes up short here. He starts off promisingly enough: cocksure, fake-charming like he needs to be as he sleeps his way to the top with ever-the-happy-throwaway-character-actress, Judy Greer. But that’s where he stays, even through his fresh new love affair and supposed struggles with Hathaway’s character, Maggie. We’re in a different film, but somehow you’ll still be rooting for him to end up with Heath Ledger, because there’s certainly nothing he seems to want to cling on to here. Anne Hathaway gets a leg-up because she has more to do than be romantic. She’s tortured by early-onset Parkinson’s–but it’s more than that, too. Her character is actually barely developed, way less than Gyllenhaal’s Jamie, who has a mentor, side conflicts with other reps, and has a brother in the film (the most atrocious comic relief character you’ll ever see, but still, a brother!). With Maggie you get “artist” and “barista.” Yet, you still get the sense of someone who has had to grow up fast with a disease and has her own life, at least, essential in a movie only about two people falling in love that doesn’t let us get to know them by themselves first. Which the movie really doesn’t, halting any depth in the movie’s only decent performance.
From what we gain about Jamie and Maggie, there is no contrast between the way they are with others and the way they are with each other, causing everything about these characters to bleed together in no discernible pattern, certainly not resembling love. The big question of the movie is, can Jamie be with a girl with Parkinson’s? But we’re given little reason he can or can’t, and from her end, the last person she dated was a pharmaceutical rep as well. Hardly the star-crossed lovers the trailer purports. In the end, the only choice Jamie makes in this standard rom-com is between sex and… sex. One option with an R-rated Hathaway and the other with nameless, faceless never-contenders.
It’ll be interesting to see Hathaway host the Oscars this year, as recently reported, with James Franco who might be more of her equal. There’s apparently something besides her breasts America’s willing to see more of, it’s just not really in this movie.
– Michael J Narkunski