Love and Other Drugs
Is it possible to make a maudlin satire? That's the uncomfortable question posed by Love and Other Drugs, a hyperactive romantic comedy set in the overhyped world of '90s prescription drug sales, a film that twitches and creaks due to a manic-depressive tendency buried deep in its genetic code. The remedy? Gratuitous nudity.
Stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal spend an inordinate amount of time rolling around in the buff, when not flirting, fighting or racing through overwritten dialogue intended to be ironic and cutting, but really about as sharp as a Q-Tip. Not that I'm complaining; Hathaway's soft, womanly curves are very easy on the eyes, and ladies will no doubt enjoy seeing Brokeback cowboy Gyllenhaal go bareback, but the sex scenes are the cherry atop an underbaked soufflé. All the cranked-up sexual steam is unusual in a film that shares the superstructure of a meet-cute date movie, the styling of a disease weeper, and the exterior trappings of a cynical, corporate send-up. Mostly it's a lot of noise, clamor and flesh as misdirection.
Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a slick hustler who breezes through life with just enough of a headwind to keep ahead of the angry boyfriends of the many chicks who fall for his easy charms. He's got more ambition than financial success, a fact pointed out by his dorky, newly loaded tech-bubble brother (Josh Gad) who quips, "If you could make money by fucking, you'd be richer than me." Short of a stud service, Jamie's best option is to enter the sales training department of medical giant Pfizer. Dispatched to the Ohio River valley, he starts making the hospital rounds, charming his way into doctor's offices, filing cabinets and, occasionally, into their receptionist's panties, so that he can place free samples of Zoloft on the shelves ahead of bitter rival Prozac. Things really heat up when Viagra hits the market, but director Ed Zwick, taking a break from such brooding epics as The Last Samurai, is more interested in squeezing laughs and tears than in inflicting any real wounds on the corrupt industry that promotes collusion between doctors and drug peddlers.
Everything hums along cheerfully like a parody of one of those Michael J. Fox movies from the late '80s about how hard life is for handsome yuppies, until Jamie meets a free-spirited young patient named Maggie (Anne Hathaway) who's all teeth and eyes, like an erotic rabbit. She's got everything the usual disposable bimbos don't, beauty, brains, talent, sass and, oh yeah, and a case of Parkinson's. This revelation doesn't stop their spirited sessions of horizontal bop, but it does strain the bogus "no feelings, just sex, please" posture they've been faking. Will the shallow cad find the soul to be strong for her? And will the brittle sick girl open up enough to be truly loved? What do you think?
At present there is no known cure for the common bad movie cliché.