With his sleepy-lidded, dangerously sincere face, Jake Gyllenhaal has always done better with edgy material – Donnie Darko
, The Good Girl
– that subverts his sunny, smiling look. But there are no hard angles to be found in this soft-hearted drama that straddles comedy, medical crisis, and the three-ring circus of Big Pharma in the Nineties. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a Pfizer rep and cocksman of the first order. When Jamie lands the new Viagra account, he happily combines his two great loves, sex and hustling; he's like Casanova in a used-car salesman's clothing. Actually, this is more of a clothing-optional film, especially when free-spirited artist Maggie (Hathaway, beaming and Botticelli-curled) enters the picture. After a meet-sleazy – while hawking his wares at a general practitioner's, Jamie fakes doctor credentials and watches her disrobe for an examination – the pair embarks on something of a no-strings-attached sex romp (the subject of most of the film's advance press). Zwick, who co-wrote the script with Charles Randolph and longtime collaborator Marshall Herskovitz (thirtysomething
), has a light touch with this honeymoon period. But his film bloats into sentimental hash when their love affair becomes complicated by Maggie's early-stage Parkinson's disease and creeping feelings of real, not entirely welcome love for each other. There's nothing wrong with sentimental hash – Love & Other Drugs
might have made a fine melodrama in the vein of Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession
(which the film obliquely recalls) – but whenever Zwick catches the rhythm of one mood, he skips the needle to try on another one, from family drama to pharmaceutical exposé to gross-out comedy. I suppose when you make a movie, however tangentially, about Viagra, you’re required to insert at least one scene of its side effects, but the broadness with which Zwick plays it out is like a stake to the heart of the film's hard-earned but fast-lost authenticity.