When Love And Other Drugs released in Oz cinemas late last year, there was a discernible divide between older (let's say over 40) and younger reviewers. The former group seemed to find Edward Zwick's romantic-comedy-drama an engaging confection, thanks mostly to its attractive and oft semi-naked leads, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.
But the latter group were nonplussed by its inability to settle on a genre or tone, and found offense with the film on several levels, its unashamed product placement for a certain drug company just one example.
Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is his family's under achiever until he begins a career in pharmaceutical sales with said drug company, putting his good looks and natural charm to work. Jamie struggles at first but then his company launches a certain blue pill onto the market – it's 1996 – and, viola!, Jamie's on the way up (so to speak).
At the same time he begins a relationship-of-sorts with Maggie (Hathaway), a free spirited artist/waitress, who won't commit to anything more with Jamie than casual sex – and lots of it; the film's frank depiction of sexual activity one of its selling points as well as its point of difference. When was the last time you saw the two leads in a rom-com actually getting it on?
But Maggie's lust for life and all it has to offer stems from a darker place. She's been diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease; not a spoiler as we learn this before we meet her. Currently in Stage 1, Maggie only suffers from tremors but her condition will worsen. But will Jamie stick around when that happens, and if he does, will it be for love or out of pity?
The major failing of Love And Other Drugs is that it doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a satire of the billion dollar pharmaceutical sales industry? Is it a raunchy rom-com? Or is it a modern day Love Story, albeit with screenwriter Charles Randolph and director Zwick backing out before the inevitable and unglamourous decline of their leading lady?
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway's natural charm and easy chemistry goes a long way to making Love And Other Drugs a not-so jagged little pill – these two could sell almost anything. But they have to work hard to overcome the screenplay's schizophrenic nature, providing a placebo effect and fooling you into thinking it's better for you than it really is.