Love and Other Drugs * * *

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Director: Edward Zwick

Writers: Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz, based on the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer

Running Length: 113 minutes

Synopsis: Set between 1996 and 1999, the movie traces the development of Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) as a drug sales rep in Pfizer, from his early difficulties with attaining his quotas, to the release of Viagra in the market and his meteoric rise selling the most desired pharmaceutical product of that period. At the same time, Jamie begins a relationship with Maggie (Anne Hathaway), who is suffering from early onset Parkinson’s. Maggie is volatile and brittle, and even the glib Jamie finds difficulty in breaking her defenses down to engage in a serious relationship.   

Review: Although this is officially one of the first romantic comedies to hit local screens in 2011, Love and Other Drugs is already a shoo-in to be one of the best we’ll see this year. Purveyors of this genre of movies are not demanding – likeable leads with good chemistry are all that’s needed. However, Love & Other Drugs takes it one step further, and presents audiences with a movie that’s more than a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. Unlike most romantic comedies, Love and Other Drugs comes off as being a lot more “real” than the usual boy-meets-girl shtick. The problems that Jamie and Maggie face are pretty close to real life, unlike most of the fluffy romantic complications that onscreen couples face. It still plays out some of the conventions of the genre, but at least the film gives a less superficial treatment than usual.

This is Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal’s second romantic pairing (the first being Brokeback Mountain), and they have more than enough passion and chemistry on screen to make the romance believable. It helps, of course, that they are both pretty faces (with pretty bodies to boot – which we see a fair bit of), but their acting abilities go far beyond that. Jake Gyllenhaal plays both the glib salesman and devoted partner well, but Anne Hathaway gives the more impressive, multi-dimensional performance as the damaged Maggie. Hathaway has certainly come very far since her Princess Diaries days and is now rightfully considered one of the best young actresses in Hollywood.

Some viewers may find the copious amounts of sex and flesh in the first half of the movie (and not just of the leads) objectionable, personally I found that the visual way that Edward Zwick had employed to represent the couple’s progression in their relationship was actually quite effective. What I didn’t really care for is the inclusion of Josh Gad’s character, who seemed to exist only as juvenile comic relief and really jars with the rest of the movie. Also, the main theme of Love doesn’t ever really gel with the Other Drugs theme, and I for one would have loved to see more of the workings of the pharmaceutical industry. Flaws aside, Love and Other Drugs is definitely still an enjoyable romantic film with a number of great performances, and a surprising amount of depth and poignancy that’s rarely seen in the genre.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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