Movie Review: Love and Other Drugs
By Matthew Huntley
December 2, 2010
Love and Other Drugs starts off in such a way that we think it might turn out to be more than just a conventional romance - perhaps a scathing satire on the greedy and competitive medical industry; or an honest and touching love story about committing to someone with a terminal illness; or an unabashedly sexy romantic comedy with two attractive leads who aren’t afraid to show a little skin.
It tries to be all these things but doesn’t quite go the distance with any of them, and so we’re left with an olio of themes and genres that don’t quite mix or play off one another to become fully realized or memorable. Instead of making us feel liberated, touched or filled with laughter, we’re left feeling unaffected, awkward and taken for a ride.
The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), a med school dropout with attention deficit disorder who thinks he may be better suited as a salesman. We see he’s a natural when he charms the pants off customers (almost literally) at an electronic store. He’s soon fired but his financially successful brother (Josh Gad) gets him an interview with the giant pharmaceutical company, Pfizer. Jamie attends a three-week training course to become a drug rep before heading out into the field with his nerve-prone supervisor, Bruce (Oliver Platt). Jamie’s first assignment: schmooze doctors and get them to prescribe Pfizer’s patented anti-depressant, Zoloft.
One of the doctors (Hank Azaria) lets Jamie masquerade as an intern, which leads him to Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), a 26-year-old Parkinson’s patient who also takes Prozac. That gives Jamie the chance to tell her Zoloft has fewer side effects. He also sneaks a peek at her chest when she asks the doctor about a strange mark on her breast. When Maggie discovers he’s a fraud and beats him over the head, Jamie can’t stop thinking about her (she’s the only girl who’s ever rejected him). He gets her number from the receptionist and calls her up for coffee, after which the two surrender to passionate sex with no strings attached.
Maggie makes it clear she doesn’t want a relationship and tells Jamie he’s not allowed to keep a change of clothes at her apartment or introduce her to his parents. It’s all just sex. She’s already been down the road where her boyfriend runs away because he’s too afraid to commit to a sick person. That, in turn, has made her afraid of getting close to anyone.
But, as the story inevitably goes, Jamie and Maggie start to fall in love with each other anyway, no matter how much they don’t want to admit it. At a Chicago drug convention, Jamie talks with a man whose wife has Parkinson’s and it suddenly dawn on him how difficult and exhausting it will be to care for someone with a disease. This realization, of course, comes immediately after Maggie listens to the testimonies of other Parkinson’s patients and is thrilled to learn just how normal their lives are. It’s also right before Maggie admits she loves Jamie. What perfect timing.