Love and Other Drugs
The tone completely shifts halfway through the movie when Jake Gyllenhaal’s character nearly has a heart attack just before finally professing his love for Anne Hathaway’s character. Until then, all the “romance” boils down to the type of no-strings-attached mentality we’ll soon be subjected to in an Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman release.
Luckily, I have the same affinity for a good dick joke (or 30) as Gyllenhaal’s teary baby blues.
You know you’re in for a 1990s period piece when the opening credits are set to the sounds of the Spin Doctors. The year is 1996, to be exact, and Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep who views a revolutionary new sex drug called Viagra as his ticket to the promised land.
And who better to sell a sex drug than a swinging dick who was recently fired from his stereo sales job for screwing the boss’s wife in the stock room? But while peddling his products to a high-profile doctor (Hank Azaria), he meets a 26-year-old beauty (Hathaway) with stage-one Parkinson’s who changes everything.
Drugs, adapted from Jamie Reidy’s 2005 memoir Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, often feels like director Edward Zwick, who usually dabbles in grander-scaled fare like The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall, has set out to save the romantic comedy. Unfortunately, the picture suffers the same side effects as most of the genre’s recent entries — force-fed comic relief (mostly from Josh Gad as Gyllenhaal’s slobbish brother) and thickly lathered schmaltz. But the actors save it.
Even during the film’s numerous skin-heavy montages, the two leads exhibit an electricity that leaps off the screen. They ooze a sexiness that exists not because Hathaway is naked for half the movie (although that certainly doesn’t hurt), but because the bond later formed by the characters feels so vital for each of them that it’s actually worth cheering for.
The fact that both characters so strongly shy away from commitment, Gyllenhaal because he’s a mattress-hopping playboy and Hathaway because she’s afraid of tying him down, actually works in the film’s favor after all the wild sex gets out of the way. Gyllenhaal faces an emotional dilemma encapsulated by rival monologues: The first by Peter Friedman who claims Parkinson’s has taken everything he once loved from his wife and the second by a drunken Azaria, a depressed bachelor who’s lived his entire life in the fast lane of excess.
Hathaway’s character, who was invented for the film, is an artsy coffee house waitress who pays for her meds in cash, and her cozy sex dungeon of a bachelorette pad adds considerably to the film’s grim, yet hopeful atmosphere. Kudos to set designer Meg Everist, whose resume features everything from 21 Grams to Whip It!. Oliver Platt, labeled far too often as simply a “character actor,” also deserves credit for bringing a personal zeal to his role as Gyllenhaal’s partner.
Far from a cure for the common rom-com, Love and Other Drugs is easy to enjoy but difficult to appreciate because you get the feeling it could have been so much more. Now that’s a tough pill to swallow.