LOVE & OTHER DRUGS
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MARCH 2, 2011
Romantic comedies have been rampant recently, and the one thing setting “Love & Other Drugs” apart from any other lovey-dovey romantic film released lately was its “R” rating. That may make me sound perverted, but some romantic comedies do not work without a particular element. Many romantic comedies lose steam by getting a ‘PG’ or “PG-13” rating and then coming off like a children’s romantic comedy. Take “When in Rome” or “The Bounty Hunter,” for example. Had these films delved into the riskier ratings, the movie would not feel like bonafide Disney comedies.
Now do not get me wrong. I enjoy plenty of romantic comedies without marking them with a big red ‘R’ rating. “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Serendipity” are two great examples. But unless you have the perfect cast or a wholly original and well-executed story, it is almost impossible to reproduce the magic of those films. Instead, you must give them an edge like “Love & Other Drugs.”
As a male audience member, getting to see absolutely every inch of Anne Hathaway was worth the price of admission. Again, to avoid the “pervert” label that I am bound to fall into through this review, Anne Hathaway wins me with this role, apart from the tumultuous sex scenes and constant sexual bantering. Hathaway plays Maggie, a Parkinson’s patient learning (or not learning) to deal with her disease and her surroundings. As she struggles with the confusion the condition brings to her love life, she finally finds peace when she meets Gyllenhaal’s character, Jamie.
The film’s main criticism is its inability to produce a consistent mood. The film is all over the place, starting with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Jamie, and his struggles to find meaning in life outside of his constant sexual encounters. The plot then develops into a “No Strings Attached,” the anti-commitment relationship between Hathaway and Gyllenhaal, which couldn’t go wrong (sarcasm). When it goes wrong, the relationship becomes strained by the thought of a future plagued by a disease. These mood shifts occur without warning and change the entire dynamic of the film every time they occur. Personally, this mood change did not bother me and made for a constantly entertaining experience.
An area I always find myself critiquing in romantic comedies is the quality of the side characters. My rule of thumb is always “a romantic comedy is only as funny as its minor characters.” This aspect of the film won me over entirely. Merely seeing Hank Azaria made me smile. His role was minor but essential, and having such a familiar and cultish actor made the film appear even more well-rounded. Having Oliver Platt, an Oscar-worthy performer, grace the film also added to the quality of the film. Platt always brings a light to his roles unmatched by any other comedic actor.
The best supporting role is Josh Gad, playing Jamie’s (Gyllenhaal) uncensored, sporadic, and loud mouth brother Josh. The way he plays off of Gyllenhaal and the remarkably candid nature of his dialogue forms the perfect side character. His role in the film never came off as overly exaggerated (caricature), but he found the right blend of worthwhile plot devices and perfect comedic timing.
“Love & Other Drugs” becomes a well-rounded rom-com that sets itself apart from other films in this genre with its ‘R’ rating, supporting cast, and constant mood changes. The idea of a pharmaceutical salesman specializing in Viagra is not a story told daily, providing a truly original storyline. The entire film comes off like a young, hip version of “Autumn in New York” (which starred Richard Gere and Winona Ryder) dealing with a strained relationship coping with a disease. Put the baseline rom-com plot aside, and this film shines. The cast was terrific from head to toe, with Anne Hathaway finally winning me. This film is sexy and hot. This film is raunchy. This film is heartfelt. This film is hilarious. There is so much going on in this film, and every bit of it works.
November 24, 2010
“Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman”
by Jamie Reidy
20th Century Fox
(for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language)
James Newton Howard
Pieter Jan Brugge