A drug is a substance that’s alters a person’s physical well-being. In other words you have a headache? Pop an aspirin and you feel better. The ultimate metaphor for a drug in “Love and Other Drugs” is, yes, love. Jamie (Gyllenhaal) has never known love; in fact he’s never even told his family he loves them. Maggie is similar. She’s a free spirit who’s more into meaningless sex more than settling down with “the one.” However what happens when these two personalities connect? Well besides lots of hot, sweaty sex love happens duh! And it changes them as if they were taking…a drug.
Director Edward Zwick sort of pushes the drug metaphor a lot and I think he wants to comment on the current state of the pharmaceutical industry, but I’m not so sure he’s as biting as he needs to be. I think he sorts of wants this film to be like “Thank You For Smoking” but spends too much time on the romance of his lead characters for that biting satire to happen. But that’s ok because I actually enjoyed the romance between the two leads. The two actors have great chemistry, which the proved a few years back in “Brokeback Mountain.” Gyllenhaal is great at playing that smooth-talking sales guy and he is rather charming. Hathaway is equally good as a woman who is so scared about her uncommon condition that she hides behind of façade of free spiritedness. She’s wonderful and if this year wasn’t such a great year for women, she’d probably get awards recognition for it.
I did say that there are a few bumps along the road in “Love and Other Drugs.” I’m not quite sure the tone of the film is completely solidified. The film seems like a straight comedy from the beginning, but begins to devolve into a bittersweet serious romance. But then there are these moments of almost strange raunchy comedy that seem more suitable to a Judd Apatow film. For instance one scene has Jamie and his Jack Black look-a-like brother Josh (Josh Gad) attending a ritzy “pajama party” where Jamie becomes involved in a three-way and taking a little blue pill. He awakes a few hours later with an erection that won’t go away and his brother rushes him to the hospital. And then the sequence just sort of ends. There’s no pay off, so to speak. What a bummer.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film involves the film’s period setting. The movie is set in 1996 just as the, err rise, of the popularity of Viagra was hitting its stride. The movie isn’t so much about Viagra as it’s more about the guy who ended up selling a lot of it, but like I said this isn’t that movie. And there’s the surprisingly clichéd scene at the end where the man realizes he made a mistake and actually loves the girl and he has to track her down and plead with her that he is in fact in love. After all Jamie isn’t really sure at first if he wants to begin a relationship with such a sick girl. And Maggie isn’t sure that Jamie is the type of guy that would want to stay with such a sick girl.
“Love and Other Drugs” has plenty of great things going for it: great performances, it’s pretty funny, it has an interesting story that sometimes meanders, and it has lots and lots of sex. If you’re seeing it for that least reason you’ll be more than satisfied, but if you see it for the other reasons…oh please who am I kidding? We just want to see hot people bone don’t we? GRADE: B