REVIEW: Anne Hathaway Proves Just How Fearless She Really Is in Love and Other Drugs
Love and Other Drugs is a sort-of romantic comedy about erectile-dysfunction drugs and Parkinson's Disease. Because Lord knows you can't make a romantic comedy that's just about erectile dysfunction. Jake Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a pharmaceutical-salesman smoothie who talks his way into doctors' storerooms, where he fills their cupboards with his samples and chucks out those of his competitors. It's the mid-1990s, and Viagra, which began as a gleam in some scientist's eye, is just about ready to be unleashed on the public. Jamie's company, Pfizer, is the manufacturer, and when our randy young go-getter learns of the drug's miracle properties, he begs his supervisor (a weary Borscht Belt Willie Loman, played by Oliver Platt) for the account.
Who could be better at selling a performance-enhancement drug than a moony-eyed satyr in his mid-20s? And who could be better at playing a moony-eyed satyr than Gyllenhaal? Love and Other Drugs is directed by Edward Zwick (whose last picture was the Holocaust drama Defiance) and is based -- loosely, I presume -- on Jamie Reidy's whistle-blowing memoir "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman." (The script was adapted by Zwick, Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz.) While I haven't read Reidy's book, I suspect it might be hard to dramatize, and you can only milk so many yuks out of old guys who can't get it up. That's why the movie needs Anne Hathaway as Free Spirit ™ Maggie Bullock, a 26-year-old former artist and current waitress who suffers from Parkinson's Disease. Maggie likes sex, a lot, and after a rather awkward first meeting, she ends up liking Jamie, a lot. But as her disease progresses, she wants no one's pity, least of all her own. So she sets up an arrangement in which she and Jamie are allowed to share carnal pleasures only; falling in love is off-limits.
As potentially appealing as these two actors might be, there's just nowhere for this story to go. Jamie, previously a freewheeling commitment-phobe, is magnetized by Maggie's "Baby, Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me" schtick. (He nearly has a heart attack the first time he tells her he loves her -- they're words he's never said before.) Maggie flees, doelike, whenever Jamie gets too serious -- she knows what Parkinson's has in store for her, and she doesn't want Jamie to have to deal with it. Jamie's and Maggie's early romping is fun to watch -- partly for reasons I'll reveal later -- but it too quickly settles into the old break-up to make-up template. Gyllenhaal is a charming enough cock-of-the-walk: When he struts into a new doctor's office, he announces himself to the receptionist with an assurance that she's gonna like him. "You know why?" he continues. "Sooner or later, everyone does." That's more or less true, and his conquests include a doctor's office worker bee (played by a sadly underused Judy Greer) and even the superarticulate supervixen who supervises the company's mass sales training.
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