STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh, Nikki DeLoach, Katheryn Winnick, Natalie Gold, Michael Chernus and Michael Buffer
A young woman suffering from Parkinson’s befriends a drug rep working for Pfizer in 1990s Pittsburgh.
The film focuses on Jamie, a relentless and charming man who meets his match with alluring free spirit who won’t let anyone, or anything, tie her down in Maggie. Working in the cutthroat world of pharmaceutical sales, Jamie’s evolving relationship with Maggie takes both of them by surprise as they find themselves under the influence of the ultimate drug….love.
Set in the mid-90’s, Love & Other Drugs focuses on Jamie Randall being fired from a Pittsburgh electronics store for having sex with the manager’s girlfriend. His wealthy brother Josh finds him a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative and after attending a Pfizer training program, Jamie goes to work for the company and attempt to get doctors to prescribe Zoloft and Zithromax, in order to help his regional manager, Bruce Winston, make the big leagues in Chicago. One day he meets Maggie Murdock, a woman who is suffering from early onset Parkinson’s disease. The two end up in a sexual, no-strings attached, kind of relationship which begins to evolve over the course of the film and as Jamie is given a new drug to sell, Viagra.
After spending a decade directing serious films (The Siege, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond and Defiance), Edward Zwick steps into the realm of romantic-comedy and to an extent the film half works. The main reason that this film is worth watching is due to the chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a solid performance as Jamie Randall, a charmer, a womaniser that is willing to do whatever it takes to get that move to Chicago, such as flirting and sleeping with the receptionists at the doctor’s office, to sabotaging the efforts of Prozac rep Trey Hannigan. It’s when we meets his match in Maggie that Jamie starts to develop something that he didn’t know that he had inside him and it’s surprising by just how cliched that sounds, Gyllenhaal manages to be somewhat likeable by the films end. Anne Hathaway gets better material to work with as Maggie Murdock and how she’s coping with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and her performance as the character brings a certain warmth and splendour to the film. The film is at its strongest when it focuses on their romance and handling the Parkinson’s subject matter, with probably the best and most sincere sequence taking place at a convention by those dealing with the disease and their loved ones, which Maggie finds therapeutic in giving her hope on how to deal with her disease, while Jamie is giving a harsh, realistic crash course into how the disease will affect the woman he loves.
The film trends on the raunchy comedy territory before a number of others followed suit after it (Friends With Benefits, No Strings Attached to name a few), some of the stuff that takes place outside of the romance arc feels redundant. The sub-plot of Jamie’s brother Josh moving into his apartment and throughout the course of the film it looks like he feels set to live in that apartment for the rest of his life. The fact that they go for the gag of him masturbating to a sex tape that his brother and girlfriend made just feels all levels of wrong….and cheap. I found Josh Gad’s character to be extremely obnoxious and felt like the film stalled whenever he appeared on screen. Also the so-called pharmaceutical war between Jamie and Trey feels underdeveloped, especially when it is mentioned that Trey once dated Maggie. The script is pretty generic and by the numbers from what we’ve seen in previous romantic comedies.
Following the romance between Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway’s characters and highlighting the subject matter of Parkinson’s disease is when the film is at its best. Unfortunately it drags on a few plots that undermine the real arc that they’re focusing on, as the third wheel brother and pharmaceutical plot just drag the story rather than enhance the film. As a romantic-comedy it’s pretty by the numbers and the material just doesn’t have the bite that we’re used to getting from an Edward Zwick film. 5/10