I will say up front that I am a sucker for a good love story. My favorite type of film is, without competition, the romantic comedy. To me it is less about the comedic elements, those are just there to add life to the story. A true romantic comedy is centered around one, simple question:Â do you believe the romance? Every filmmaker that has ever attempted to tackle this genre, from Capra, to Reiner, to Allen, has battled endlessly to strike true romance on film. If a film can captivate that kind of tenderness and emotional depth, most other flaws seem inconsequential. Love and Other Drugs is a flawed film. But I believed the romance, boy did I everâ€¦
Love and Other Drugs is Edward Zwickâ€™s latest film and is something of a peculiarity for him. He is known mostly for such films as Glory and Courage Under Fire. His most recent film, Defiance, was also a war epic. Hence, turning this direction caused many raised eyebrows. That said, he is not totally knew to the genre, he started here actually.
The film tells the story of Jamie Randall, a pharmaceutical sales person that has a way with the ladies. You know the drill, and as much as I hate to admit it, for a majority of the filmâ€™s runtime, it pretty much just runs the drill. We have our male protagonist that loves sex but not relationships, and our quirky, hip, nonconformist woman who initially shows no interest. Then they get involved and problems emerge when emotions show up. The filmâ€™s catch is that she has Parkinsonâ€™s disease. I appreciate that the film reveals this immediately rather than trying to keep her reasoning for wanting distance a mystery. But that doesnâ€™t make the concept any more original.
There is a subtle irony that she is sick and he works in the medical field, but the film doesnâ€™t really develop it. And I am glad that it doesnâ€™t because Viagra (the drug that Jamie is selling) doesnâ€™t really have anything to do with Parkinsonâ€™s. Instead the film plays on the irony that he is selling Viagra and he is a sexaholic, but he chooses her instead.
The film falls into more clichÃ©s and some of its worst moments the overweight, Jonah Hill-style brother of Jamie who moves in because he is having problems with his lady. His purpose in the film is to be jealous of his brother until he has sex and discovers that relationships are more important. And he provides for plenty of alarmingly humorous gags.
Despite everything I just mentioned, the film is good, even great if you are someone who loves romantic comedies as irrationally as I do. But it is not this yearâ€™s Up in the Air. This film is a comedy at heart and it only loses sight of that to get deeply romantic. The film does not really say anything profound about the medical industry or Parkinsonâ€™s. It tells a love story and makes you laugh. And there is nothing wrong with that, which is why I liked it.
I still feel as though I am writing a negative, scathing review of this film. I assure you, I am not. Because, as you probably noticed I havenâ€™t mentioned anything about our two lead performers. I will say this bluntly: this is my new favorite Jake Gyllenhaal performance. He literally delves into the realm of Jim Carrey with this role. He is wild, charismatic, and hysterical. But he has a heart, and he pulls it off even when the script canâ€™t keep up with him. Anne Hathaway is at the top of her game as well, but the script gives her a little less to work with. She shines in a particularly brilliant scene that shows real Parkinsonâ€™s patients gathered to share each otherâ€™s stories. Hathaway sits in the audience with tears of joy, marveling at their accomplishments.
This film is a romance at heart, and that is where it truly delivers. Sure it may be a little off on the script and editing; and maybe it did posses potential to be more. All I know is that there are moments in this film where you can literally feel the sexual tension bursting from the screen. The cinematography and score work together to elevate the romantic tone. One beautiful shot in which Hathaway rejects Gyllenhaal shows snow swirling around her at the edge of an alleyway. Another shows only their skin through a blurred, steamy window, also with snow blowing around in front of them.
In the final moments of the film, Jamie is required to make his clichÃ©, final resolution request to be with her. Again, the film goes through the motions with this scene. But here, there is only one subject that needs to be touched on. And while the film stumbles a bit to get there, it goes where it needs to go, and says all that it needs to say. It ends on the right note and it is fun to watch it get there. This is the best love story I have seen all year, and because I am a sucker for this genre, I will probably remember it at the end of the year. But I ‘m not sure ifAcademy voters or other critics will.
The Bottom Line: Here is a truly romantic film that tries a little too hard to score its laughs. It is a good romantic comedy, but it is no masterpiece.