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Love and Other Drugs (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Love and Other Drugs


Starring Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Judy Greer, Gabriel Macht, Jaimie Alexander, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh, Katheryn Winnick, Kate Jennings Grant, Kimberly Scott, Peter Friedman and Nikki Deloach.

Screenplay by Charles Randolph, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.

Directed by Edward Zwick.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 113 minutes. Rated R.

This film – about sex and romance during the pharmaceutical boom of the 1990s – is ironically just a tiny bit schizophrenic itself. In fact, it could be said to have a complete split personality, going from light sexy farce to much heavier drama in the blink of an eye.

It’s still mostly a very good film, although I will admit that I personally preferred the breezy first half to the more maudlin coda. However, even the ending worked for the most part.

Created by TV vets Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (they created intelligent and funny dramas like thirtysomething and Once and Again together), Love and Other Drugs also straddles the line of humor and seriousness.

It starts simply enough, in the mid-90s, Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a slacker lothario, unable to hold a job but with a tremendous ability to pick up the ladies. Eventually, his brother (Josh Gad) – a young and immature dot-com millionaire – hooks him up with a position as a drug salesperson for Pfizer. (This is right before the explosion of the occupation – before it was taken over by model-hot “sales reps” and the salaries hit the stratosphere.)

As a handsome and charming guy, Jamie has a certain amount of success getting through the nurses to the doctors; however, he is having trouble selling his Zoloft samples once he gets through. He gets into a bitter competition with a rival salesman who is pimping Prozac. (Interestingly, all the company and drug names are real here – I wonder how the drug companies will feel about this representation of their business.)

While pretending to be an intern to promote his drugs, Jamie meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a beautiful but emotionally distant woman who is in the early phases of Parkinson’s disease. They fall into a very steamy but shallow sexual relationship – in which the actors are often physically and emotionally exposed – but they both refuse to let it get serious.

(Interesting side note: the last time that Hathaway did nudity in a film was the last time she worked with Gyllenhaal, in Brokeback Mountain. I’m not suggesting this means anything other than the fact that they are comfortable working together, I’m just noting it.)

As this no-strings relationship is progressing, Pfizer creates Viagra. Seeing the opportunity in it, Jake throws himself behind the product (explaining correctly that he was the ideal person to push a boner pill) and soon he has become rich and powerful in his industry.

Of course, with the basic premise of the film it can’t stay on such light footing and the second half of the film is significantly more serious than the first as Maggie’s disease progresses – not necessarily a worse movie (though I guess it sort of is) but definitely more overwrought.

In fact, even the soundtrack style changes; going from kitschy popular 90s hits like Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” and “The Macarena” to sensitive alt-folk like Beck’s “Jackass” and Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity.”

However, this is not the first time a romantic comedy took a sharp right turn into more serious drama and this particular story has more cause for the dark overtones than most.

Some later scenes can be a little hard to watch because they are so specifically calculated to tug the heartstrings – a scene where she goes to a Parkinson’s support group or scenes where he vainly tries to get her the best medical support money can buy.

However, we like both of the characters and do want them to succeed and find true love.

Part of me – the cynical part, granted – wonders if it was necessary to give her character the affliction in the first place or if it was a calculated attempt to turn a cute little love story into more of a tragedy. Personally, I’m not sure if it was necessary, but that is not the movie that they have made. Even if the later sections of Love and Other Drugs do feel just a bit manipulative, it is still a sweet and sad story mostly told very well.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: December 3, 2010.

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