The first time audiences saw Jake Gyllenhaal (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”) and Anne Hathaway (“Alice in Wonderland”) together was in “Brokeback Mountain,” where Hathaway plays the wife of Gyllenhaal’s character, who carries on an intimate relationship with another man. Besides an awkward sex scene, viewers really didn’t have the chance to grasp just how much chemistry these two Oscar-nominated actors could have.
In “Love and Other Drugs,” Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are reunited again, this time portraying characters sharply different from a gay cowboy and his rodeo rider wife. Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie, an up-and-coming pharmaceutical sales representative in 1996 who uses his charm and good looks to drum up business. Hathaway portrays Maggie, an independent and free-spirited artist who has been diagnosed with Stage 1 Parkinson’s disease.
They meet when Jamie, dressing up as a medical intern, sits in on Maggie’s appointment, and ends up seeing a little more than he expected. The story continues with a one-night-stand between the two, which leads to a relationship that surprises both of them. With the parallel storylines of the evolution of Viagra and its wildly successful sales and Maggie’s struggles with Parkinson’s disease, the two leads eventually find that love is more powerful than any drug.
One of the major reasons this somewhat clich? theme seems to work is the strong chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, two powerhouses that make the most of the roles they have been given. In addition, they share the screen with a handful of recognizable faces, including Oliver Platt (“Letters to Juliet”), Judy Greer (“Marmaduke”), and Hank Azaria (“Year One”) – all of whom are supporting characters that do anything but blend into the background.
The acting in “Love and Other Drugs” is easily one of the film’s greatest strengths. However, the film definitely has its share of struggles, namely its inability in deciding which genre it wants to fit into. The relationship between Jamie and Maggie, with their various issues, seems to fit into a romantic drama. But with its Viagra gags and humorous banter, the movie seems to try to earn a comedic label.
The problem here, however, is that the movie isn’t a romantic comedy. And with so much sex and nudity, it really shouldn’t be. The best route here for the filmmakers would have been to make more of an effort developing it into a romantic drama, which would have given the film more focus. Taking away some of the corniness and the needless comedy, “Love and Other Drugs” could have been a lot better – and with a cast and storyline like it has, it deserved to be.
In addition, the audience is left wanting to know more about the characters, their history and their relationships with their respective families. Besides a pretty boy salesman and an independent artist struggling with a lesser-known disease, we aren’t granted much more information about the main characters save for a scene here or there delving only slightly into Jamie’s history and family life.
This is unfortunate, because these two are characters we’ve all seen in movies before. By developing Jamie and Maggie’s stories further, audiences may have been able to see that there are more to these two than meets the eye.
For all of its problems, however, “Love and Other Drugs” brings to light some relevant topics and themes seldom seen in films today. By following the life of a pharmaceutical salesman, viewers are able to witness the side of prescription drugs they never really get to see, and they are able to realize just how dependent our society has become on drugs to solve all of our problems. Using the characters as vehicles, the question of how much drugs really help us is raised.
The film also puts the audience members into Jamie’s position, and makes them question how far they would truly go for someone they love, and how strong they could be in a similar situation. But none of these questions are posed in an “in-your-face” kind of way; the writing subtly sneaks them in; in a surprisingly un-corny way, Jamie and Maggie’s relationship reveals that love is the ultimate drug.
In the end, “Love and Other Drugs” is a well-acted, entertaining film. It has its fair share of corny and humorous moments, and although at times it shows a lack of focus and development, it has a little something for everyone – whether that be a topless Anne Hathaway or an adorable Jake Gyllenhaal in Ray-Bans.