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Love and Other Drugs

November 26, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

Love and Other Drugs is a pretty straightforward romantic comedy with two selling points grafted on to help college-age girls drag their college-age boyfriends to see it: dick jokes and Anne Hathaway’s breasts. The former are handled with all the subtlety and savoir-faire of an Axe commercial. The latter are, well.. quite nice, actually; but they don’t serve any real purpose in the movie. I don’t mean to be a prude, but Hathaway deserves better than this.

So it’s 1996, and Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an up-and-coming drug representative for Pfizer in western Pennsylvania, under the wing of Bruce Jackson (Oliver Platt). He’s a whiz with sales, since he’s honed his skills selling himself to every woman he sees since the fifth grade. For example, insinuating himself into the bed of a secretary (Judy Greer) to get better access to a key doctor (Hank Azaria) he needs to win over. But he’s only a misogynistic Don Juan because of how he feels deep down inside. It’s not women he really hates, it’s himself, you see.

In the course of pushing Zoloft (Pfizer’s SSRI) over Prozac (Eli Lilly’s), Jamie meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). She’s canny and evasive, and she doesn’t fall at his feet like every other woman in the world. Since we all know that rejection is the best aphrodisiac for a womanizer, Maggie becomes irresistible to Jamie.

Maggie turns out to be at least as commitment-phobic as Jamie is. But since it’s not acceptable for women to be sexually aggressive for its own sake, her excuse is that she’s conflicted over how a relationship would work with her early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Obviously these two are perfect for each other, hooking up and having fun with no expectations; I’d say “no strings attached”, but that may be copyrighted by a completely different tepid rom-com due out in January. And Hathaway’s breasts make numerous cameo appearances.

Oh, speaking of useless boobs, Jamie’s brother Josh (Josh Gad) is a dot-com millionaire who suddenly shows up to crash on Jamie’s couch three states away from his home in Chicago. Josh’s only real purpose is to be as singularly annoying as possible, and to provide a broad entry path for broader humor — everything from repulsive geek stereotypes to masturbation to, of course, dick jokes.

And there are plenty of dick jokes, since Jamie’s career really takes off when Pfizer releases Viagra (sildenafil citrate). Large chunks of the movie play more like a zany teen/stoner comedy, and Gad is sort of a poor-man’s Jonah Hill. I’m sure he’s good at what he does, but he’s part of a tumor on an otherwise perfectly mediocre film.

Of course, the path forward is pretty clear: some ups, some downs, some break-up, some make-up. The script showed some real promise for about twenty minutes as it explored what lay ahead in the relationship — with Jamie having to come to terms with the reality of a chronic illness that Maggie had already resigned herself to, and her being forced to go through it again — but that section is swamped in a morass of sex and puerile humor. Besides, it’s been done before and better; try Love Simple when it comes out on Netflix.

But for all its haphazard style and uneven pacing, the central lesson of Love and Other Drugs is clearly stated in the inevitable happy ending. Remember, girls: a womanizer is really just a scared, sensitive boy deep down, and if you love him and praise him enough he’ll completely change and stick with you through anything.

Worth it: not really, unless you’ve been waiting to get a peek at Anne Hathaway naked since The Princess Diaries.
Bechdel test: fail.

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