Love and Other Drugs is a romantic dramedy starring Anne Hathaway and
Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays a hot-shot pharmaceutical rep who's pushing
Viagra when it first hits the market, and she's a free-spirited artist
with Parkinson's disease. You have undoubtedly heard of this film. The
media, falling into a snare contrived by the film's publicists, latched
onto the fact that the principals got naked a lot. The publicity campaign
for the film concentrated on two messages: (1) distinguished candidate for
awards; (2) beautiful people naked. I think it was mismarketed. Before I
watched it, I was under the impression that it was a weepy-ass dyin' woman
flick laden with enough pretentiousness to catch the attention of the
Oscar committee, and that the only possible reason for me to watch it was
to see Anne Hathaway naked. That is a wrong impression. It is a completely
mainstream entertainment film with none of the phony-baloney gravitas we
associate with Oscar candidates. In fact, the first third of the film is
great fun. It is satirical, funny, energetic and quite genuine, at least
by rom-com standards. I really enjoyed the first third of the film.
And then disaster struck. Oh, it wasn't a disaster really. That's an
exaggeration provoked by my disappointment that the film couldn't deliver
on its early promise. Love and Other Drugs is a charming movie, but it
eventually degenerates into a by-the-numbers romantic comedy, with all the
requisite plot twists, musical cues and stock characters. The womanizing
leading man stops drifting through life when he's finally struck by
Cupid's arrow. He has a nerdy sidekick of a brother who would have been
played by Curtis Armstrong in the 1980s. He breaks up with his lady love,
then wins her back with a dramatic romantic gesture. He's pitted against
an insufferable preppie asshole for the hand of the leading lady. To make
that last element even more contrived, the Marmalard-in-residence competes
with the leading man for customers as well as for the fair damsel. Now
THERE's an efficient application of the "economy of characters" rule.
Some of those clichés are more annoying than others. The character who
provides the professional and romantic competition for our hero is an
underwritten one-dimensional jagoff who does not belong in a film with
Oscar aspirations, but rather on the business end of the explosion when
Bluto Blutarski squeezes a food zit. A century ago authors would give this
kind of character a moustache to twirl menacingly as he tied the hapless
heroine to a saw-bound log. The professional rivalry between the two men
is integral to a sub-plot, but that could have been handled without making
the competitor a soulless boor. In fact, it would have been much more
interesting if the two men had been completely indistinguishable, thus
giving Gyllenhaal's character a true challenge - trying to dislodge his
older self from a firmly entrenched position.
While the business rivalry seems merely artificial, the romantic
rivalry is utterly unnecessary. If Marmalard Jr had been competing with
our hero solely for shelf space, many of the film's weaknesses would be
ameliorated and absolutely nothing would be lost, or even changed, since
no element of the romantic relationship between the principals relates to
anything about the ex-boyfriend. No plot element would have required even
the slightest modification if that part of the character had disappeared.
Given the fact that such a simple change would have improved the film
immeasurably, I got the impression the director ran out of patience with
rewrites and decided to film an early draft.
Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair. The film seems unfinished, but even at
that, Love and Other Drugs has enough good points to make it worthwhile
for you guys as a date movie. Unlike most such fare, you won't hate it,
you'll laugh a bit, you'll experience some some powerful moments, you'll
see Anne Hathaway naked, and you might even get laid afterwards!
That alone should merit some kind of Oscar.