Love & Other Drugs
2010, R, 112 min. Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 3, 2010
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.