Love and Other Drugs is a bit of a mess, just like life is a bit of a mess sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable mess. The movie seems to be one thing, then another, then another. You can’t label it easily and I like that about it.
When I first saw a trailer for it, I thought, romantic comedy. The second trailer I saw made me think, oh wait a second is this going to be some sappy Hollywood “boy meets dying girl” drama. But it isn’t really either. There are some very funny moments and there are some serious, almost weepy, romantic moments. There’s some social commentary about the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, but nothing preachy. And, oh yeah, there’s also a lot of sex.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, the charming and sexy black sheep son from a family of doctors. He loses his job selling stereo equipment because he can’t keep it in his pants so his younger, more successful and wealthier, but significantly less good-looking, brother sets him up in a training program at Pfizer. Jamie ends up with a job in pharmaceutical sales somewhere in the Ohio River Valley and that is where he meets his match in Maggie Murdock, played by Anne Hathaway. She’s a free spirit who, just like Jamie, likes sex and doesn’t want to be tied down. So they agree to have fun, no strings attached. But we all know that never really works, especially in the movies. So despite their hesitation to become a couple (which leads to some of the movie’s funnier moments), things progress, and while she’s not dying, she does have medical issues that make things messy.
The world of pharmaceutical sales offers an interesting backdrop for Jamie and Anne’s relationship. Because it’s set in the late ‘90s, the drug everyone wants – and the one Jamie eventually ends up selling – is Viagra. The movie is based loosely on the memoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” so there are some interesting insights into big pharma’s tactics and the way healthcare works here in America. For instance, the anti-depressant you get prescribed might just depend on which pharmaceutical salesman got your doctor laid. (Hank Azaria does a nice turn as said doctor by the way.) But the movie never gets bogged down in that. In the end, it’s about the relationship between Jamie and Maggie and Jamie’s evolution as a man.
The movie isn’t flawless. One might say Jamie never has to face true hardship or loss along the way. There’s also the question of his brother… if he’s the rich software/internet sensation he’s set-up to be, why does he have to live on Jamie’s couch for most of the movie after his wife kicks him out? Can’t he get his own place? Then there are the sex scenes, if that sort of thing bothers you – like it did the two older ladies walking out of the theater behind me – then be forewarned there’s a lot of it, and therefore a lot of nudity in the movie. I thought it worked and it never felt gratuitous, and let’s face it neither Gyllenhaal or Hathaway is hard to look at. Plus they have really good chemistry together on-screen. Overall, it’s one of the better romance/comedy/dramas I’ve seen in a while.