REVIEW: ‘Love and Other Drugs’

 

Grade: B+

 

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:  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 ever…

Love and Other Drugs is Edward Zwick’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 film’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 film’s catch is that she has Parkinson’s disease. I appreciate that the film reveals this immediately rather than trying to keep her reasoning for wanting distance a mystery. But that doesn’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 doesn’t really develop it. And I am glad that it doesn’t because Viagra (the drug that Jamie is selling) doesn’t really have anything to do with Parkinson’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 clichés 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 year’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 Parkinson’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 haven’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 can’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 Parkinson’s patients gathered to share each other’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 cliché, 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.

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  • Quinn

    Glad you liked it, I can’t wait to see it. But I’d just like to point out that you said it was a comedy at heart, then later on said it was a romance at heart

  • Yeah. In the first point, I am stating that the reason it is not like Up in the Air is because it is more of a comedy with a sense of humor in the vein of 500 Days of Summer or Hangover. In the second point I am saying that the romance is what makes it work for me.

    I suppose that was a very poor choice of words though. Thanks for pointing it out :)

  • Jose

    It does make sense once you pointed it out though. So it really shouldn’t be taken seriously as an Oscar tentpole film but as a film to take a date?

  • Andrew R.

    @Jose-Probably. Oh well.

    And I don’t know if I’ll see this. I’m really picky with my rom-coms.

  • @Jose – I would only take a date if lots of sex and gross out humor won’t make it awkward. As far as Oscars go, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, but I highly doubt it. It will depend on how it goes over. This is a rare incident where even after seeing the film, I honestly cannot tell what anyone else will think of it.

    @Andrew R. – Not really and “Oh well.” moment. The movie is fun, that’s what matters, not the Oscars.

  • So, Davin, since your favorite genre is romantic comedy, what are you thoughts on ‘Love Actually’? Can we wax poetic about its brilliance this Holiday season?

  • Glad you liked it Davin. I can’t wait to see it. Do you think it will be a hit? i just read that it’s tracking poorly.

    @Alex Love Actually sucks. It’s a middle aged man’s fantasy. All of the over-the-hill guys get pretty young women falling all over them. Four weddings is the Richard Curtis rom-com I like best.

  • Jose

    I’d like to see an article on Love Actually.

  • @Jose – I’m hoping to do a Christmas movie marathon for December and ‘Love Actually’ will definitely be on the list.

  • Jose

    Don’t forget to include classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carrol, and Die Hard.

  • @Alex, I do love Love Actually, but it is a bit of a guilty pleasure.

    @Murtada, I agree Love Actually is far from Richard Curtis’s best. As for Love and Other Drugs, like I said before, even after seeing it I have no idea what others will think of it. If I had to make a guess, I would say it will probably blow over without making too large an impact on either the academy or the box office.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  • Mary

    Don’t let your kids see this movie. Another example of what’s wrong with our culture. Characters are a bunch of self-centered spoiled brats who turn to sex as a cure for what’s lacking in their life. So sick of Hollywood and it’s laziness in writing movies that include perverse sex and too much profanity because they can’t think of anything interesting or unique to say.

    So disappointed — what a waste of $10!

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