Love and Other Drugs

Love and Other Drugs was released almost a month ago in the United States, leaving the rest of us with quite a wait. Fortunately, we’ve had several weeks of accounts of rampant nudity and sex to keep us going. In fact, the nudity is all that some interviewers and critics have mentioned, as if it’s something remarkable. Perhaps it would be in your run-of-the mill RomCom but maybe Love and Other Drugs isn’t all that run of the mill.

I admit I’m biased – having followed the filming through on Wet Dark and Wild, I have a certain attachment to the project, not to mention a deep liking for Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. How good then to see a film in which they’re not only together again, but this time they can bare the sight of one another and can’t keep their hands off. When you are biased, it makes you breathe a sigh of relief when you discover you haven’t been misleading yourself. Mind you, it’s hard to go wrong when you have co-stars with this kind of chemistry.

Love and Other Drugs tells the story of Jamie Randall, a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer in 1996 who ends up selling a drug suited to his special talents – Viagra. At the beginning of the film we see him learn his skills egged on by his brother (Josh Gad) and manager (Oliver Platt). Doctors and receptionists are his prey. Randall just has to discover what they want. But when Randall meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway) a young woman with Stage 1 Parkinson’s Disease, everything turns on its head for Jamie. Not at once. They both put up quite a fight, turning instead towards communication through sex and being naked together. And eating and taking photographs and learning about what makes the other breathe without realising that’s what they’re doing. That’s what love is all about.

Directed by Ed Zwick, this film is not a conventional RomCom. It doesn’t follow the traditional RomCom path and there is uncertainty about how the story will end – both within the movie and longer term as the two immensely likeable characters confront what they love and hate about each other and their situation.

Matters come to a head at an Un-Convention held by and for those with Parkinson’s. Maggie is inspired by motivational talks about life lived with the disease, while Jamie hears the other side of the story from a longtime carer. Fear marks the relationship of these two people. One wants to give at just the moment when the other takes a step back. Back and forth.

This is not a perfect film. The second half doesn’t quite fit with the first. The movie starts off as one thing – with an opening scene I thoroughly enjoyed – but control was lost to some extent. This mirrored Jamie’s inner conflict and his big character change but it also made the structure clunky. Scenes such as the ‘pyjama party’ were fun but they seemed squeezed in during a convenient gap in Jamie and Maggie’s relationship.

The supporting actors were superb. My only complaint was that Hank Azaria was not made use of nearly as much as I would have liked but otherwise Azaria, Platt, Judy Greer, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht and Katheryn Winnick did indeed give Jake and Anne a solid wall from which to hang their own performances.

The 1990s feel of the movie is sharp, the soundtrack pulses through the good and less good songs of the year (why no soundtrack album?) and the script is wordy and tight. Gyllenhaal proves that he is a master of comedy, combining feeling, emotion and roaring laughs and geekiness as few others can. Annie Hathaway disappears into this young lost woman – witty and cold and frightened – and at the helm we have Ed Zwick.

In the UK, where Love and Other Drugs opens on 29 December, the film is certificated a 15. Other fine films, such as The Kids Are All Right, have contained more nudity than this and it has not been made such a fuss off. I’m hoping that when the movie opens here it will be the word of mouth about the story and the wonderful actors (both nominated for Golden Globes for this) that will get people into seats.

Love and Other Drugs is one of those rare movies during which you can laugh and cry within just one scene. Life can be like that.

I was fortunate enough to attend the London press conference for Love and Other Drugs on 11 November. You can read my account at Bleeding Cool.

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8 Responses to Love and Other Drugs

  1. Susan says:

    Hi Kate! You’ve written another excellent review that I agree with nearly 100%! The first time I saw LAOD I had the same reaction as you to the pajama party scene. But at my third viewing, it didn’t seem so clunky and I was able to grasp more of “the big picture” going on in that scene. This movie is definitely one to see multiple times; you can’t help but miss some of the dialogue because you’ll be laughing so hard at some moments, and once the novelty of all the exposed skin wears off it’s easier to appreciate the finer points of Jake’s and Anne’s marvelous performances. Their on-screen chemistry is simply amazing. This gem of a movie has redefined what the romantic comedy should be; I hope we get many more “emotional” comedies of this caliber.

  2. LadyEkster says:

    Yay! Your enthusiasm shines through as if it were sunrays coming out of the laptop screen. 😀 Just 2,5 weeks to go and LAOD will finally be here – I’m still hoping for a poster at that bus stop across the road. 😉

    I wanted to add that I love this line: ‘When you are biased, it makes you breathe a sigh of relief when you discover you haven’t been misleading yourself.’ So true. It’s always scary when you have high expectations of something and you want it to be good so very badly.

  3. sheba says:

    A sound review that I will revisit once I’ve seen L&OD. I will agree on a justified amount of emotional investment that doesn’t disappoint. In all honesty though I’m more looking forward to Annie’s performance more than Jake’s because she was so underused in BBM but that was completely understandabe and totally necessary. Their interviews are natural and so in tune with each other that I expect it to be translated on the big screen to.

    Were there any other stand out performances such as Jill Clayburg etc? Did the parents seem like mom and dad?

    It does seem like Jake deliberately makes movies that you have to watch over again which I’m so looking forward to doing over and over 😉

  4. lemniscate says:

    Hi Kate,
    Great review! Obviously your bias has not unbalanced your professionalism.
    LAOD opened on the 16th Dec in Australia and I’ve only watched it once so far (but will probably go for seconds and maybe even thirds ;-).
    I so fell in love with this movie… But, I totally agree with you regarding that pajama scene. In fact, I personally found the style of comedy often fought with the beautiful authenticity and emotion portrayed by the main characters, during their organic journey towards love. The love definitely felt real. The comedy,… well, it’s comedy, but it felt a little too Jim Carrey for my taste at times. Broadening the range just that little too far, perhaps. But hey, I’m totally biased. 😉 It’s pipped Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko off the top spot in my list of favourite Jake Gyllenhaal movies!!!

  5. WDW says:

    Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read the review and I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of the film as it moves out from the States.

    Thanks Susan! That’s an interesting scene to discuss as it seems to me like a perfect example of a scene which didn’t quite know where to sit in the movie. It seemed to me that it needed to be in the film somewhere and so it was just slotted in. But it’s certainly a fun scene!

    I’ve seen it twice now and in the second screening I went to (full of members of the public rather than critics), everyone was laughing and crying. A great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to seeing it again next week, Just a week to go!

    Not long now, Lady Ekster! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

    Hi Sheba! Annie’s performance is superb. I’d heard so much about good she is in it that I was very pleased to see that Jake has just as much opportunity to show his acting chops. They’re a delight together. The parents (George Segal and Jill Clayburgh) were both excellent but they don’t have much to do.

    Thanks Lemniscate! I liked the comedy and I liked the emotional drama and I do agree that at times the two didn’t seem to fit together. There was a confusion there I thought. It’s an unusual film. So while I think some moments were a little odd – the visual comedy particularly – they did make me laugh and so I’ll live with them. This could have been a very different film. I tend to think that Jake and Annie played quite a hand in shaping it into what it is.

  6. winterbird says:

    I thought the film is slightly a bit too long and the pace drags a bit in the second half, but 100% agree with your assessment. The performance from the cast overcome minor issues of the film.

    And omg, I can never get enough of those B&W shots of Jake in the film..awww.

  7. Karen says:

    I feel I need to watch this again before I fully comment on it (I was slightly distracted by Jake as usual) but one thing I want to say after my initial watching is why were Jake and Anne questioned about how hard it was for them to be naked so much in the film? Both of them have beautiful bodies so why would they be shy about showing them? Also both have done sex scenes before, even together! Anyway I enjoyed the initial viewing, thought it was strange that the parents were shown in the beginning but not again in the film. The funny parts made me and the whole cinema laugh out loud! Loved the beginning of the film, great dancing from Jake and a great sound track.

  8. Pingback: 13 американских комедий о любви, которые неожиданно реально смешны

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