johnlink ranks LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (2010)

Director Edward Zwick doesn’t really dabble in lighthearted stories. His filmography includes GLORY, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, THE LAST SAMURAI, and BLOOD DIAMOND. In fact, before LOVE & OTHER DRUGS, Zwick’s last foray into romantic comedy for a feature film was his very first theatrical release: ABOUT LAST NIGHT. It’s safe to say, then, that this is not a typical mindless rom-com. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, this is more character driven dramedy than high concept comedy. The film is better for it.

I watched LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (2010) on 7.10.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Set in the mid 90s, this film centers around Jamie (Gyllenhaal), a man coasting through both life and women as he holds down the role of family underachiever. His little brother made a ton of money with a medical software startup, his older sister is a doctor. Jamie gets a job with Pfizer, more because he needs a paycheck than because of any particular love for being a pharmaceutical salesman.

He meets Maggie (Hathaway) a 26 year old woman suffering (mildly when we meet her) from early onset Parkison’s. They start a fling which neither intends to be serious; these are life-long hook-up artists who have no real desire to start a relationship. Jamie’s excuse is that he doesn’t care to be tied down, Maggie’s is that she just wants sex. Both are lying to themselves and each other.

A relationship, of course, develops. Highs-and-lows happen. A couple of outrageous comedy bits occur (as soon as Jamie starts selling the brand new wonder drug Viagra, we know he’s destined to end up in the hospital with one of those uncontrollable hard-ons the commercials always warn us about). The beats of this film are fairly typical for a dramatic comedy. It is the characters which place this film on a slightly higher pedestal.

The Prozac rep (Gabriel Macht) is over-aggressive, something we learn can be a byproduct of taking that particular drug. Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria) becomes a Viagra junky hooked on getting girls. Some of the side effects of some of Maggie’s Parkinson’s medications can lead to sexual arousal and hyperactivity. Many of these people, then, become the drug of choice. For Jamie this connection is less clear. While his confidence is always high, his self-doubt continually keeps success at bay. It can be said that he doesn’t find his groove until he starts pedaling (and eventually using) Viagra. But the implication seems to be more that he is relatively drug free, and is able to overcome his problems through soul-searching and human relationships rather than through medication. His relationship with Maggie can not work until they have exhausted all the possible medical miracles for Parkinson’s. Only once we learn that there is no medicine, no cure for what is happening to her, can we start to see how their relationship will truly work. The final act of this film concerns the question of whether a man can love a woman whom he knows will, as the film says, need him much more than he needs her.

The sexuality in this film is honest and bare. These are beautiful characters who are much more comfortable with their bodies than they are with their minds. In LOVE & OTHER DRUGS, nudity is not necessarily a metaphor for soul-bearing as it often is in films of this sort. Instead the nudity appears to invite the suggestion that Maggie and Jamie have disc0nnected any ties between sexuality and emotional attachment. It is not coincidental that there is less nudity as the film goes on as these two learn to be as comfortable with themselves clothed as they are naked.

Some of this film may be overwritten. The message regarding the evils of prescription drug use are not subtle at all. I’m someone who happens to agree with the message, but it sometimes got in the way of the story. That particular theme was absolutely necessary, but it was not understated in any way. The relationship of Jamie’s family was a little cliche, but also was a satirical poke at the booming 90s. Former doctor dad. Stay at home mom. Doctor daughter, one brilliant millionaire son, and then Jamie: the screw up (though the definition of screw-up is very loose. Jamie seems like a normal, successful, adjusted young man who’s crime is that he isn’t a doctor or a millionaire).

The script’s dialogue, however, is very nice. I love the growing conversations between Jamie and Maggie as this film, and their relationship, progresses. Jamie’s brother Josh (Josh Gad) provides some excellent comic relief from the stereotypical overweight sidekick role. The build and climax are satisfying, if not particularly original.

I am sometimes tough on romantic comedies, and much easier on comedic romances (or is it the other way around. I’ve stumbled into a black hole there). I don’t particularly enjoy fluffy and inane comedies, half of which seem to star Kate Hudson. I do have a soft spot for a comedic story, with a nice romance, solid characters, good acting, and a digestible premise. LOVE & OTHER DRUGS isn’t a soft film, as some of the tough moments can be fairly tough. And though it may not be spectacular, it is very watchable and very much worth seeing.





~ by johnlink00 on July 11, 2012.

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