“Love and Other Drugs,” the new film starring Oscar nominees Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhal, isn’t your standard rom com. Call it a drom com, or a romantic dramedy, but it isn’t afraid to try and wring a tear or two from you while slathering on the romance.
Gyllenhal is Jamie, a good looking med school drop-out who finds his calling selling pharmaceuticals. Until meeting Maggie (Hathaway), a beautiful and talented but troubled woman, he slid through life based solely on charm and his ability to get people to do anything he wants them to do. He falls in love with her but [SPOILER] because she has early onset Parkinson’s Disease she refuses to let Jamie get too close, preferring to keep their relationship purely physical. As her sickness progresses they both find themselves with some very serious decisions to make. [END OF SPOILERS]
Based on Jamie Reidy’s memoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman,” the movie is a mix of broad comedy (which doesn’t always work so well) and heartfelt romance (which does). Gyllenhal and Hathaway sell the romance, their huge eyes—both these actors have soulful eyes bigger than on any sad-eyed clown painting—and make a convincing couple. The plot takes its lead from the standard rom com set-up but liberally mixes in sex, nudity (yes, movie lovers the two comely leads spend a great deal of time topless and bottomless!) and more genuine feeling than any ten Katherine Heigl movies.
It’s not a seamless mingling of serious romance and comedy however. Other than Maggie Jamie shares his screen time with two sidekicks, and that, frankly is one too many. Oliver Platt, as his sales mentor is a riot and underused. Josh Gad, as Jamie’s porn addicted brother, the role Jack Black would have played ten years ago and Jonah Hill probably auditioned for this year, is funny-ish but wears out his welcome early on. And please Mr. Gyllenhal never do “painful erection” jokes ever again in your career.
“Love and Other Drugs” could have deepened the script by increasing the time it gives to the evils of the pharmaceutical business but instead avoids the disease-of-the-week clichés and puts the focus where it belongs, on two very likeable and watchable stars doing some very good work.