Love & Other Drugs Never Recovers from an Identity Crisis
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 24 Nov
DVD Release Date: March 1, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: November 24, 2010
Rating: R (for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Adaptation
Run Time: 113 min.
Director: Edward Zwick
Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Hank Azaria, Judy Greer, Oliver Platt, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht
It was the famed American playwright T.S. Elliot who once said that "good writers borrow; great writers steal," and that distinction couldn't be more spot-on in Edward Zwick's (Defiance, Blood Diamond) latest film, Love & Other Drugs.
Rather than simply sticking with a somewhat faithful adaptation of the memoir the studio bothered optioning in the first place, namely Jamie Reidy's Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, the movie's three screenwriters liberally borrow from a veritable superabundance of source material instead. Part Love Story, part Up in the Air with a smidge of the satirical spirit of Thank You for Smoking, Love & Other Drugs never quite knows what it is, and the story ultimately suffers for it. Truth be told, bothering to label it "good" is probably too strong of praise.
Given the screenplay's decidedly directionless course, one can't help but wonder if all the accompanying sex and nudity was meant to compensate for its shortcomings. In fact, you can practically imagine how the Hollywood studio execs envisioned it still working in their favor: "Maybe it we keep showing two very attractive people in the buff for the bulk of the film's running time, people will probably forget that we've got absolutely no idea what this movie is really supposed to be."
But for whatever reason that Love & Other Drugs is suffering from a major identity crisis, it certainly doesn't do the audience—or the actors—any favors. And just in case you haven't already guessed, the film is a far cry from the standard issue rom-com that's front and center in the trailers.
For the record, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Maggie (Anne Hathaway) don't exactly meet cute. Well unless, your particular brand of romantic poison involves being wooed by someone trying to sleep his way into the good graces of the medical community. See, as a pharmaceutical rep, Jamie does whatever it takes to get the drugs he's pushing into the hands of patients, even if it means posing as a medical intern so he can help a Pittsburgh-based doctor (Hank Azaria) "better access the needs of his patients." And while he's providing this oh-so-important service to mankind, he gets a sneak peek at Maggie's breast as a bonus and suddenly decides that he can't live without getting her number.
Through his dubious powers of persuasion, which basically entail non-stop flattery, buying flowers for the front desk clerk and regularly bedding a lonely nurse (Judy Greer), Jamie eventually gets her digits and starts giving Maggie the ol' hard-court press. As it turns out, though, Maggie doesn't immediately fall for his cheesy lines and best puppy-dog glances. She's a far more sophisticated minx, after all, and casual sex without commitment isn't just fine with her, it's actually preferred.
Of course, Jamie and Maggie's reasons for enjoying life without the perceived noose of actually staying together couldn't be more different. While Jamie is the textbook narcissist with a wildly insatiable appetite for whatever—and whoever—suits him in the moment, Maggie employs the "love ‘em and leave ‘em" philosophy as a coping mechanism since she's suffering from the early onset of Parkinson's disease and doesn't want to burden anyone.
Given that Jamie hasn't ever cared about anyone but himself, something that plays out humorously when he tries telling Maggie that he loves her, being with Maggie is a huge step in his personal growth. And as these characters spend more and more time together, and yes, even some outside of the bedroom, too, Jamie and Maggie both eventually realize the life-giving value in a connection that's not merely carnal.
Much like the corporate Lone Ranger that George Clooney played so well in the aforementioned Up in the Air, Jamie and Maggie are enrolled in the education of what makes successful relationships work. And through trial and error, they eventually learn what true love requires as the film dramatically segues into dreaded Lifetime made-for-TV territory.
Unfortunately, the viewer has to wade through a whole ‘lotta muck to actually experience Jamie and Maggie's transformation. In stark contrast to most modern romantic comedies where the camera cuts away before things get too crazy-sexual, Love & Other Drugs leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Sure, some will inevitably chalk that up to being "edgy" or "authentic," but all that skin only cheapens the film's underlying lesson of what true intimacy is all about.
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, cigarette smoking, plus marijuana is used recreationally. Given Jamie's occupation, there is also much discussion of prescription drugs including depression meds and Viagra.
Language/Profanity: A non-stop stream of four-letter words throughout with the "f" word being the script's personal favorite. There are also several uses of s--t, da--, a--, bit-- and instances where the Lord's name is taken in vain. Crude words with a sexual connotation are also used frequently including cu--, pu--- and di--.
Sex/Nudity: Of all the movies I've reviewed, including both big-screen installments of Sex and the City, there's probably never been this much sexual content and nudity crammed into an R-rated film. In fact, both Hathaway and Gyllenhaal have admitted in recent interviews that Love & Other Drugs is particularly "racy." And they aren't kidding. The protagonists spend a good chunk of the film naked. There are several graphic sex scenes where Hathaway's breasts and Gyllenhaal's backside are on full display. In one scene, Hathaway is briefly shown full frontal. Jamie's brother (Josh Gad) is also shown masturbating while a black and white video of his brother and Maggie having sex plays in the background. During a "pajama party," Jake is "entertained" by two women who make out with each other first. At the same party, Jamie's brother is caught hooking up with the partygoer who let him touch her breasts (she takes her top off on-screen, and the sex scene is pretty gritty). Jamie is briefly hospitalized for the four-hour occurrence that men are always warned about in Viagra commercials.
Violence: Trey (Gabriel Macht) beats up Jamie once he discovers he's throwing away his Prozac samples and replacing them with Zoloft, the drug he's pushing.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.