Sunday, February 2, 2014

Love & Other Drugs (2010) [R] ***+

It's 1996, and Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just been fired from his sales job in a consumer electronics store because he was caught having sex with the manager's girlfriend. Building on his earlier attempt at medical school, Jamie enrolls in Pfizer's pharmaceutical sales program, and, after graduation he's assigned a territory in the Ohio Valley where he's teamed with veteran Bruce Winston (Oliver Platt).

Initially, Jamie has difficulty meeting his quota selling Zoloft against Eli Lilly's Prozac, but, in 1998, when the FDA approves Pfizer's Viagra, Jamie becomes an instant star, especially when he starts providing Viagra samples to the influential and libidinous Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria). About the same time Jamie falls for Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), an early onset Parkinson's disease patient he meets in Stan's office. While Maggie understands the course of her disease and tries to protect herself from getting involved, as a defense mechanism, Jake is determined to get through to her, although it is clear he doesn't fully appreciate the seriousness of her illness.

Love & Other Drugs is an adult romantic drama; it offers an honest look at a complicated relationship. The issues facing Jamie and Maggie are common in relationships where one partner's illness creates an imbalance in nurturing and support, and where both partners struggle with issues of trust, openness and commitment. The film is very successful when it focuses on Jamie and Maggie's relationship, although the intensity of the nudity and sexuality borders on the gratuitous at times, isn't really necessary to advance the plot, and will make some viewers uncomfortable. The film is less successful when it attempts to make a statement about greed and amorality in the pharmaceutical industry; manipulating doctors and patients in order to increase pharmaceutical sales, and forcing low-income senior citizens to make bus trips to Canada to buy their medications. There's also a comic-relief subplot involving Jamie's libidinous younger brother, Josh (Josh Gad) that, while effective in relieving the film's dramatic tension, is often jarring, slapstick and crude. The last decade have given us several similarly-themed films, including Autumn in New YorkSweet NovemberGriffin & Phoenix, and P.S. I Love You. So, if you enjoyed any of those films, and you are a fan of Gyllenhaal and/or Hathaway, you'll definitely appreciate Love & Other Drugs. 

Labels: comedy, drama, romance     
Internet Movie Database   
Metacritic 55/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=58, viewers=66)    

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