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Love And Other Drugs

Love & Other Drugs

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

EDWARD Zwick is a name more synonymous with epic blockbusters such as The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond, but he actually started his big screen career with the intimate adult drama About Last Night.

Love & Other Drugs marks a return to that style of filmmaking, albeit one that operates on a broader canvas. It’s both a romantic comedy drama and an insight into the pharmaceutical industry of the late ‘90s – but while successful in one area, it’s deeply flawed in the other.

Based in part on Jamie Reidy’s non-fiction bestseller, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, the film follows Jake Gyllenhaal’s charismatic Pfizer salesman Jamie Randall as he navigates the pharmaceutical industry in order to make his fortune.

It then departs from the novel in having him fall for Anne Hathaway’s sassy waitress Maggie Murdock, whom he first encounters as a patient suffering from early-onset Parkinson’s.

Their ensuing relationship begins as flippant and based around sex and having fun. But it eventually tests both of their priorities… as Jamie begins to weigh up the repercussions of falling in love with someone with a debilitating disease and Maggie comes to realise she does need someone to look after her in life.

In many ways, there’s a lot to admire in Zwick’s ambitious movie. But while there are scenes and moments that suggest a braver approach than many movies might take – and not just in relation to the nudity involved – there’s also a nagging feeling that a little more was needed to really make the film stand out.

Hence, as things stand it’s a little too eager to please and nowhere near as emotionally resonant as it ought to be, taking a crowd-pleasing approach to some pretty weighty issues and failing to ring true at times.

Ironically, it’s early on, during the examination of the medical profession, that Zwick’s film works best, allowing the charismatic Gyllenhaal to shine as an arrogant salesman.

It’s the sort of expose of the ‘90s pharmaceutical boom – Viagra and all – that demonstrates genuine bravado and plays to the strengths of a support cast including Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt.

The early scenes between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are also suitably sexually charged and spiky… with both actors clearly enjoying each other’s company for the first time since Brokeback Mountain.

Unfortunately, Zwick struggles to convince entirely with the film’s switch in tone about halfway through. The early momentum and risk-taking is replaced by more formulaic plot beats that are more reminiscent of films such as Jerry Maguire, with the director’s need to please and send people away on a high diminishing some of the more serious elements.

Gyllenhaal and Hathaway continue to be on fine form throughout, but the film feels more and more fake the longer it goes on. And it’s then that certain questions become more apparent about what Zwick may have been trying to achieve.

At the end of the day, Love & Other Drugs is a romantic drama with lofty aspirations that are never quite realised. And while formulaic is the last word that Zwick would probably want used to describe his film, that’s what it becomes.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 23, 2011