Love and Other Drugs

Love and Other Drugs. Also known as Jake and Anne get naked. A lot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it just doesn’t make for a terrific movie. It makes for a good one – a fine one, but nothing special.

In this not-quite romantic comedy (really a sexual dramedy) Jake Gyllenhaal (a sexy - and talented - man who’d, let’s face it, look good in a burlap sack) plays preternatural salesman Jamie Randall. Early in the movie, Jamie gets into pharmaceutical sales and finds that the way he usually charms women in bars is exactly the way he needs to talk to nurses in order to charm them in doctor’s offices. The lovely Anne Hathaway plays Maggie Murdock, a 26 year old bohemian artist (we know she’s bohemian because always wears her curly hair down, flowing, and in one scene she smokes a joint) who is dealing with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Jamie’s used to one-night stands and meaningless but good sex; Maggie has adopted the don’t-let-him-get-close-‘cause-he’ll-break-your-heart/break-up-with-him-before-he-breaks-up-with-you philosophy and after an awkward introduction, the two get to the nakedness.

Like most romantic comedies, this one was fairly predictable; because of its predictability, the second half, during which there was less love and more drugs, dragged a little – it was taking too long to get to the inevitable end. Unlike most romantic comedies, this didn’t talk down to me; it didn’t portray the woman as some stupid, vapid, neurotic and generally ill-equipped at life person, so I was thankful for that.

I was also thankful for good chemistry and solid performances from the appealing stars (both Jake and Anne can handle comedy and raw emotions equally well, so nothing every feels false or hysterical), as well as the wonderful supporting cast. This must have been shot (mostly) in New York because there were way too many theatre actors for it to have been filmed anywhere else. Showing up in small but pivotal roles were, among others, the late, great Jill Clayburgh; Peter Friedman (from the incredible Circle Mirror Transformation) and Michael Chernus (excellent in The Aliens). Also on board (and also no strangers to the stage) were Oliver Platt, who’s always fun to watch, and Hank Azaria. Platt was great as Jamie’s partner, with his resentment of the young, new guy simmering throughout and finally reaching his boiling point at just the right moment. And as Dr. Knight (a little heavy handed, I know), Azaria does a nice job as a disaffected doc who wants to do the right thing but just can’t turn down the perks of Jamie and his ilk. (Judy Greer – who’s hilarious in just about everything – shows up (and brings the funny) as one of Jamie’s conquests.)

Azaria’s character, and particularly his interactions with Jamie, brings up an interesting point in the movie, even if it did feel a little preachy. There’s a scene during which Dr. Knight is telling Jamie how difficult his job is, what with the time it takes to see patients, make phone calls, deal with paperwork and hound insurance companies. He notes that there are people there (at the insurance companies) whose job it is to do everything they can to not pay the doctors. This reads as the filmmaker’s indictment on the health care industry, the message being that even though this takes place in 1996, the industry hasn’t gotten any better in 14 years. Agreed – there’s plenty wrong with the systems and particularly all the drugs Jamie pushes, but this isn’t the right forum in which to make that argument.

Despite the nakedness (which, with the exception of one scene, wasn’t gratuitous – just natural) the film really tried to focus on the relationship and how Maggie’s Parkinson’s figured in to it. After the movie finished, my friend turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize it was going to be so much about Parkinson’s.” I knew that Parkinson’s played a role in the movie – Jake and Anne said as much in interviews – but, like my friend, I didn’t know it would focus on Parkinson’s as much as it did.

If this all sounds a little ambivalent, that’s because I am. I liked it enough to be engaged the whole time and I wasn’t disappointed, but it still had some of those same old tropes. Despite a valiant effort by its very talented and attractive cast, this drug-filled movie didn’t make me fall in love.