Film Review: Love and Other Drugs (dir. by Ed Zwick)

There is exactly one genuinely effective and emotionally (and intellectually) honest scene in the new film Love and Other Drugs.  It’s a scene that features people who actually have Parkinson’s talking about living life with this disease.  As they speak, they are watched by Anne Hathaway who is playing a character who has Stage 1 Parkinson’s.  Their words brought tears to my eyes but, at the same time, it also reminded me that, unlike them, Hathaway (who smiles throughout the entire scene like a Miss America runner-up) was merely playing someone with Parkinson’s.  It was hard not to think about the fact that while the people speaking are still dealing with the disease today, Hathaway is off shooting her next film.

That’s the type of film that Love and Other Drugs is.  It’s the type of film where the slightest amount of reality only serves to remind the viewer of how fake the rest of the movie is.

The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who I will always love because he will always be Donnie Darko.  That’s why it pains me to say that Gyllenhaal’s over-the-top performance in this film is just a little bit awful.  He’s playing a compulsive womanizer who becomes a salesman for Pfizer in the 1990s.  The first fourth of the film is pretty much made up of him fucking every girl he meets and then abandoning her afterward.  However, the film suggests we shouldn’t hold this against him since apparently, every woman in America is presented as being a giggling, simple-minded whore.  Except, of course, for Anne Hathaway who is presented as being a depressed, angry, and sick.  Gyllenhaal falls in love with her and the subtext here, I guess, is that Gyllenhaal is redeemed because he’s willing to love a girl with a terrible disease.  So, in a way, Anne Hathaway’s character having a terrible disease is the best thing that could have ever happened to our protagonist.

At the same time this is going on, Gyllenhaal is trying to sell a new drug called Viagra which, once again, gives director Ed Zwick an excuse to show a bunch of frumpy women going nuts over a drug for men who can’ t get it up.  Interestingly enough, we don’t see any of the men with limp dicks obsessively taking the pills until all the blood stops flowing to their brains.  Gyllenhaal does have a scene where he can’t get it up but Hathaway (who doesn’t even get upset — now, that is confidence!) still manages to get him off after listening to him talk about how difficult it is to be a rich, white boy.  Later on, Gyllenhaal is tricked into taking Viagra (by a woman, naturally) and he ends up having to go to the ER with an erection that everyone tells us is very impressive.  They have to tell us because we don’t actually get to see it or any other cocks in this film though Anne Hathaway’s boobs are listed in the end credits.

Love and Other Drugs is one of those films that it so overwhelmingly bad that I’m sure it’ll have some passionate defenders who will probably bitch and moan about this review.  So, allow me to say a few things to them now so I won’t have to waste my time replying — when a movie introduces a bunch of senior citizens getting on a bus to go to Canada to get affordable medication just so that Jake Gyllenhaal can later chase the bus down in his Porsche and shout about how much he loves Anne Hathaway, the movie has got some issues.  When a movie features Anne Hathaway responding to getting a breast exam from a fake doctor by then agreeing to fuck the fake doctor, the movie has obviously been made by men who have never given one thought to the reality of breast cancer.  When a movie insists that Hathaway’s promiscuity is due to her being emotionally damaged but Gyllenhaal’s identical behavior is presented as being cute and funny then that essentially makes this movie a sexist fantasy.

As I said earlier, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a performance here that is just bad.  He’s miscast here.  The off-centered vibe that made him the perfect Donnie Darko doesn’t work here and he reacts by smiling during the comedic scenes and screwing up his face all weird-like during the dramatic ones. 

Anne Hathaway — who was so brilliant playing me in Rachel Getting Married — actually gives a pretty good performance but she’s constantly betrayed by the movie’s script and direction.  I was first diagnosed as being bipolar nine years ago and I can say that Hathaway perfectly captures both the shame and the defiance that comes from having a socially unacceptable disease.

The rest of the cast is made up of character actors playing thinly-drawn stereotypes.  Hank Azaria, however, has a few good scenes as a hedonistic doctor but then you have to deal with Gabriel Macht who plays a rival salesman who just happens to be Hathaway’s ex and a psycho.  Why do filmmakers never realize that giving their fantasy figures psychotic ex-boyfriends does nothing more than trivialize the entire plot?  For the entire film, I sat there and wondered, “But why would anyone go out with someone that evil in the first place?  Other than the fact that it’s convenient for the plot?”

I saw this movie with my very good friend Jeff and my sister Erin.  Since Erin is a pharmaceutical sales rep, I asked her how accurate this film was.  Erin smiled and replied, “Well, there is a company called Pfizer.”  I also asked Jeff if this movie was a realistic portrayal of how men see the world.  He declined to answer. 

Love and Other Drugs attempts, all at the same time, to be a romantic drama, an over-the-top comedy, a recreation of history, a political/social satire, and a well-intentioned piece of social advocacy.  Taken individually, each of those genres is difficult to pull off successfully.  Toss them all together and it’s nearly impossible.  Yes, it could be done but not by director Ed Zwick.

16 responses to “Film Review: Love and Other Drugs (dir. by Ed Zwick)

  1. Why am I not surprised that this film was made by Ed Zwick. All the good will I think he received from making the exceptional Civil War-drama “Glory” has been wasted by one attempt after attempt at trying to to meld sentimentality with a serious subject.

    Whether it’s about blood diamonds, modernity encroaching on the pastoral life to this film he seems to infuse so much fake sentimentality in his films that they end up not just sounding fake, but insulting to the very subject matter he’s trying to put a spotlight on.

    I was surprised you went to see this film and not Burlesque.

    I had high hopes that this film was going to give Zwick a chance to pull back on his hyperbolic style of filmmaking since he won’t be tackling major world issues this time around. But I guess he just decided to use the same techniques on this film as he has in the past.

    It looks like I won’t be seeing this but just make myself feel better by watching a better alternate in “Thank You For Smoking”.


    • 🙂 I love Thank You For Smoking. 🙂

      Burlesque, I would have seen except I wasn’t going to force Jeff to sit through a musical. 🙂

      I didn’t realize that Zwick did Glory, which is a film that I really like. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to guess it on the basis of Love and Other Drugs. I also didn’t know that he was the man behind Blood Diamond though I could have guessed it just the same from Love and Other Drugs. Blood Diamond was such a racist movie and nobody ever really seemed to notice. I didn’t care much for Leo’s performance in the Departed but it was certainly more worthy of Oscar recognition than his shrill turn in Blood Diamond.

      We’re going to get all of this Zwickness out of our system by going to see Dwayne Johnson in Faster. “Can you forgive me?” “No, Ed Zwick, I fear we can not…” BANG!

      Oh shit, Bob, calm down, I’m speaking metaphorically. (Who knows? Bob might be reading this…)


      • Zwick also made The Last Samurai. Now there’s one that just screamed “white man’s guilt” more than how people were screaming it for Avatar.

        He did make a good film after Glory which, while heavy-handed, at the very least was quite entertaining in The Siege.


  2. Sexism is the right word about this film. More an Oscar hopeful that fails to deliver… This film makes me think that 2010 is a terrible year in film. I saw just 12 or 13 good movies this year, and almost none of them are really GOOD movies. And Sasha Stone says that 2010 is one if the best years in her cinema memory… Maybe we saw completely different movies this year, or I´m a dumb… Whatever…


    • I read where Sasha said that as well. I think her obsession with The Social Network has caused her to go insane.

      I’ve seen a handful of films that I’m really passionate about. Exit Through The Gift Shop, Fish Tank, Inception, 127 Hours, and a few others. The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo may not have been a great film but Noomi Rapace gave one of the best performances of the past decade.

      But, for the most part, 2010 has been a mediocre year.


  3. Yes, there is a company called Pfizer and the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal wouldn’t have lasted a day with them or any other pharmacuetical company. There’s more to being a sales rep. than just smiling and handing out flowers.


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