In “Love And Other Drugs” (set around the year 1996), Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, an electronics employee turned pharmaceutical representative. Jamie’s strongest asset is that he has the ability to sell anything to anyone due to his friendly attitude and convincing zealousness. In laments terms, he can charm the pants off of nearly anyone. In a way, that is the reason why he is fired from his electronics job.
Jamie’s goal is to help an underdog pharmaceutical company Pfizer rise to prominence, with occasional (more like downright seldom) words of encouragement from his supervisor Bruce Winston (Oliver Platt). Now I am no doctor, but do unknown drug companies actually have the money to finance a massive display show to unveil their new product? The whole event makes me think back to Stark Expo in “Iron Man 2.” Just a thought.
Anyhoo, Pfizer sees a possible breakthrough with their revolutionary new product called Viagra (keep in mind that this is the mid-90s). However, it is difficult for anybody to get the business to take off when larger rival drug companies are clouding doctor’s visions. Despite Jamie’s unrelentingly amiable and proactive approach to pitching the company’s products, local hospitals refuse to be swayed by him. It is not until Jamie pairs up with Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria) one day that the corporation begins to gain any sort of credibility.
Amidst all these dealings, Jamie forms a sexual relationship with the attractive 26-year old Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). The way these two meet I will not reveal; I will let the trailers and promotional ads do it for me. Despite having a stage one variant of Parkinson’s disease that she battles with, she is quite a lively and carefree spirit. Jamie falls hard in like/love with her, but she refuses to get involved romantically with him simply because (as far as I can tell) she does not want anything to end in heartbreak. Strictly a sexual relationship.
For the first half, this material actually works very well. Gyllenhaal and Hathaway both have surprisingly great chemistry and give great performances. Something in the way that they smile or the manner in which they deliver a line makes you instantly like their characters. Gyllenhaal plays a totally confident person who has everything down to a formula, including his ways to entice women. Hathaway’s character, on the other hand, sees through his nice-guy formula. “You have beautiful eyes,” says Jamie out of left field in one scene. Maggie gives him an incredulous look and replies, “That’s the best you got?” She then goes on to infer his motives as to why he puts on this act. She has the blueprint to his formula.
The film is quite witty in this way it satirizes all the cliché romcom dialogues and tropes through Maggie. And Gyllenhall’s slimeball of a brother Josh (Josh Gad from “The Rocker”) brings a lot of screwball humor to the table. But more importantly, it takes a more mature and developed stance to the romantic comedy genre, which is ultimately on life support nowadays. Just for the first half, I would still say this is the best romcom I have seen this year.
However, it is approximately at the halfway mark that time really starts to take its toll. A big chunk of the movie seems to be missing the spark that made me initially like it. Jamie and Maggie’s relationship is left on hiatus for what I thought was way too long and is instead replaced by Pfizer’s standard success story. And what little time we do spend with the two leads mostly involves Maggie’s tussle with Parkinson’s. I would not be as critical of this side-story had the film presented an air where this type of melodrama would fit. What it comes down to is that the script falls into the typical romantic comedy pitfalls that oddly enough were being poked fun at in the earlier half of the film.
While I do only give the film a rating of two-and-a-half out of four, I give that rating with the utmost admiration. The two leads seem like real, appealing characters to follow, the acting from Gyllenhaal and Hathaway is sweet and persuasive and the screenplay upon first glance transcends most other romantic comedies in recent years. Yet I walked out just a little bit let down by the way things wrapped up. Let down that it could not sustain its high note for the entire duration. Let down that it came so astoundingly close to getting a thumbs-up from me.
VERDICT: 2.5 out of 4
BY SALTY THE BEAST / November 28th, 2010
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