Ordinarily, I would say that any film that starts with The Spin Doctors’ Two Princes is destined to be a disaster. “Love and Other Drugs” takes place is 1996 though so I guess I can be reasonable. The catchy ditty that consumed the airwaves that year is blasting in a high-end stereo store, where Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is using his charms to make the sales and get the ladies while he’s at it. He hasn’t a care in the world until he meets a girl (Anne Hathaway) who has no choice but to take life seriously. The twosome are charming together and so disaster is averted but sadly, only so far as to achieve disappointment.
Director Edward Zwick often makes socially conscious films and “Love and Other Drugs” is no different (although arguably much less serious than say, “Blood Diamond”, as far as issues go). Jamie is a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer at just the right time to cash in on the Viagra explosion. This allows Zwick to explore supposedly scandalous themes like the evils of the drug companies and how they’re ruining our immune systems while getting disgustingly rich. Zwick is never really interested in the matter at hand though. He just uses hot topic scenarios as backdrops for the real story – in this case, the reluctant love between Jamie and Hathaway’s Maggie Murdoch. To make matters worse, and of course much more poignant, Maggie has early on-set Parkinson’s. And so the real question is how life can be so terribly unfair as to give these two people a transformative love that will only get harder and harder to hold.
My answer to that is pretty simple. That’s life, folks. For all of Zwick’s fascination with serious subjects, he rarely seems to comprehend the actual impact of these hardships on the people involved. Maggie pushes people away because she doesn’t think its fair for anyone to have to deal with her condition. Meanwhile, Jamie is frustrated that he can’t fix her with a pill like everything else and has to accept that love is hard. While these are real struggles, the tone is kept pretty light while both of them accept that love is a drug all unto itself. Fortunately for “Love and Other Drugs”, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway get along brilliantly. They are playful and sharp, like lovers should be, and thanks to Zwick’s somewhat voyeuristic gaze, they are hot and naked a whole heck of a lot too. They are certainly the only addictive element to the film though and when the buzz wears off, there is no withdrawal at all.
Review by Joseph Bélanger