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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look42.86%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap42.86%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Love and Other Drugs
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by Jay Seaver

"Effective, but could do with some dangerous side effects."
4 stars

Edward Zwick could have made an issue movie out of "Love and Other Drugs"; he and his co-writers have taken a story that focuses on one unsavory corner of the medical/pharmaceutical industry and elaborated on it so that it touches several others. Instead, he puts the focus on the love story, which is perfectly fine: It's akin to putting a few milligrams of medicine in a candy shell, and this turns out to be pretty good candy.

Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes from a family of doctors, but while he washed out of college and is selling stereos as the movie starts - before getting fired due to his horndog antics - his brother Josh (Josh Gad) puts him onto another line of work, being Pfizer's point man for getting doctors to prescribe their drugs rather than those of the competition (or, perish the thought, generics). While making the rounds with Stan Knight (Hank Azaria), a doctor who influences a great deal of the region, he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a pretty artist/waitress with early-onset Parkinson's Disease. She has no desire for commitment because she knows it will eventually end badly, and he's the type of slimeball that steals competing companies' samples when the doctors aren't looking. Perfect match, until they surprise each other by finding there's more than their respective libidos involved.

There's something kind of impressive about how Zwick and company split the difference between the currently-popular raunchy romantic comedy and the traditional model early on in the movie. It's not leeringly sleazy, but I suspect that a few eyebrows will be raised when the film doesn't have the same cuts as its green-band trailer. In some ways, maybe there should have been a little more of a creep factor to their meet-cute (Maggie disrobes in front of Jamie thinking he's a doctor, but is still open to hooking up later, and there's also implications that she's traded on her sexuality with more members of the medical and pharma community than just Jamie); then again, that's not necessarily something you want to have hanging over the couple as the movie goes on. At any rate, not being shy about the sex early on is certainly one way of making sure that the audience understands the initial basis for the relationship.

Watching it evolve is fun, too. They're each intelligent and so initially matter-of-fact about what they're looking for - indeed, determined that it not be something else - that there's a bit more snap to their banter as they get to know each other. We know the structure of this sort of romantic comedy well enough that the filmmakers don't need to overemphasize turning points, and can even manage a moment of surprise by having a character not over-react when that might be expected. The medical-industry background gives occasional food for thought and has a bearing on their relationship, both in terms of what sort of rough times Maggie may be in for and how Jamie is in a business that rewards being crass, especially once Viagra becomes part of his portfolio.

Gyllenhaal makes a highly entertaining prick as the movie opens, just the right combination of fast talk, cocky attitude, and actual intelligence to back it up that he can sell Jamie as... well, maybe not sympathetic, or likable, but that bizarre variation of trustworthy that comes from being predictably amoral. He curbs the character's inherent smugness just enough that we can root for him when he becomes the victim in a gag - often at the hands of Gad or Gabriel Macht as a rival company's drug rep - and he sells us on what made Jamie the way he is on the basis of little more than one conversation with Maggie and one family dinner scene.

Hathaway has a more obviously physical component to her role - getting just the right amount of tremor in her hands for a given day, or looking and acting particularly worn down for a particular sequence. She's also great at turning on the movie-star glow at unusual points (like after meeting a group of other people with Parkinson's) and making it work. There are moments when she seems almost too beautiful and upbeat for such a potentially tragic character, but she does well in the moments when we're meant to see that being that way can be hard work, or when blurring the line between unselfishness and a particular form of martyrdom.

The supporting cast is impressive, too - Oliver Platt turns his entire performance on a dime in the last act and sells that to us, for instance. Macht and Gad both make good foils for Gyllenhaal, with Macht almost machine-like as a rival and Gad supplying the broad comedy (as does Brian Hutchison with a recurring part as a homeless man that becomes more darkly funny with each appearance). As alluded to before, George Segal and Natalie Gold are note-perfect in their scenes as Jamie's father and sister bringing passive and aggressive pressure on him. Hank Azaria creates an engagingly and intriguingly pathetic creature as Dr. Knight, who really should be much more mature than he is.

In some ways, the movie could do with more characters and situations like Knight; the occasional skewering of America's pharma-driven health care industry give occasional bite to a movie that gets more comfortable and familiar as it goes on. I'm glad it finds a heart and is warm when it needs to be, but part of the initial appeal of both the movie and its main characters was how they could be a little prickly and not be ashamed of it.

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originally posted: 11/29/10 15:52:24
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User Comments

7/31/11 Man Out Six Bucks Narco-mercantilism and obsequious bantering with a self-obsessed strung-out wench. 2 stars
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  24-Nov-2010 (R)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2011


  DVD: 01-Mar-2011

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