Movie review: ‘Love and Other Drugs’ is a rom-com with identity crisis
“Love and Other Drugs” can’t quite settle on whether to be a frankly adult romantic comedy, a sharp satire of the go-go ’90s dot-com bubble and the rise of Big Pharma, or a tear-jerking degenerative-disease melodrama.
So it waffles among the three: For a while it offers the often naked Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal locked in a sexually explicit affair in which neither can utter the L-word (love) or even consider the C-word (commitment); then it noodles around manically in the shark-filled waters of pharmaceutical sales and high-stakes drug development, and finally it dithers off to a highly conventional, soap-opera conclusion of the “Love Story” kind.
Loosely drawn from Jamie Reidy’s expose “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman,” it’s a story in which the parts are much stronger than the whole.
Under the hand of director Edward Zwick (best known for epics like “Glory,” but also developer of the late-’80s TV series “thirtysomething”), the film is polished to a high sheen and populated by top-flight actors, even in the smallest of parts (the late Jill Clayburgh turns in a too brief but pithy turn in her final role). And the story gives its extremely photogenic co-stars a chance to inhabit complex and contradictory characters.
But, as scripted by Zwick, Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz, the narrative never quite settles into a cohesive track.
Black sheep in a family of overachieving doctors, Jamie (Gyllenhaal) possesses the bland charm of a natural salesman. He’s especially good at selling women on the idea of hopping in bed with him. But, due to his sexual escapades, he can never hold down a job for long.
That is, until he happens into a trainee gig selling Pfizer pharmaceuticals in the Ohio River valley. In short order, two life-altering events occur. He meets the boho beauty Maggie (Hathaway), a collage artist suffering from early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and, shortly thereafter, Viagra is launched into the marketplace with fervent fanfare.
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