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.