Jake Gyllenhaal's manwhore discovers true love in Edward Zwick's latest romantic dramedy
Published: November 24, 2010
Love and Other Drugs
Directed by Edward Zwick
Opens Nov. 24
It’s an age-old tale. Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy and girl inevitably—gasp—fall in love, but they realize that either one or both of them have major issues that somehow impede them from embarking upon a real relationship, so they just fool around a lot, and maybe cry a little.
That’s pretty much the premise behind Love and Other Drugs, director Edward Zwick’s second and latest foray into dramedy, the first being 1986’s About Last Night. . . . Set in the not-so-distant past of 1998, Love and Other Drugs follows the story of Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), a ne’er-do-well salesman who gets booted from his job at a quasi-Radio Shack after getting caught with the boss’ girlfriend. Jamie snags a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep for Pfizer, and is sent out to sell doctors Zoloft and Zithromax at an Ohio River Valley hospital.
Jamie’s out of luck, though, discovering that his puppy-dog eyes and sweet smile can’t get him far with Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria), the hospital’s drug-dispensing king. Knight’s already buddy-buddy with Trey Hannigan (Gabriel Macht), the behemoth Lilly rep whose coveted Prozac flies off pharmaceutical shelves.
In a desperate bid to appeal to Knight, Jamie offers to shadow him around the hospital for a day, ostensibly to learn more about Knight’s patients’ pharmaceutical needs. The shadowing bit becomes way more complicated, however, when he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a patient suffering from early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Entranced by her beauty and vivacious personality, Jamie hunts her down and takes her out for coffee, leading to a feisty, ferocious hookup at Maggie’s loft.
Maggie tells Jamie that she doesn’t want anything complicated, just sex, an offer that, at first, commitment-phobic Jamie heartily takes time and time again. But, of course, the more time they spend together, the more Jamie realizes he has fallen in love with Maggie, and he sets out to prove that despite her debilitating disease and his wild imperfections, he and Maggie belong happily ever after, together.
Though Love and Other Drugs has its moments—most of which are courtesy of a scene-stealing Oliver Platt as Jamie’s acid-reflux-plagued supervisor—most of the movie is drenched in romantic dramedy cliché. Jamie is the perennial prodigal son, a sweet-talking bad boy who secretly just wants the approval of his father (George Segal). Maggie, on the other hand, is the customary free-spirited artist, who has a fierce grasp on her independence. Throw in Jamie’s perfunctory crass brother (Josh Gad) to shed light on Jamie’s own tangled emotions, and the gang’s all here. There’s even a devastating illness to complicate matters; Hathaway puts in an admirable performance as the Parkinson’s patient, making it one of the movie’s better-explored offerings.
Even the movie as a period piece feels gimmicky—it’s kind of entertaining to watch outré technology such as StarTAC cell phones get thrown around, and there’s a fun plotline about Jamie hitting it big with an early foray into Pfizer’s Viagra market, but 1998 feels too recent to be retrospective, and it’s easy to forget that the time setting is important.
It should be mentioned, though, that a good chunk of the movie consists of super-steamy, super-nude sex scenes between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway. While the leads’ bangin’ bodies don’t manage to save the movie, they certainly make it far more pleasant to watch.