Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad
Synopsis: Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is a smooth talker who rebels against his family’s wishes for him o enter medicine, and instead uses his gift of the gab to enter pharmaceutical sales. It just so happens he gets a job with Pfizer not long before they release the cash cow drug Viagra. While trying to rustle up clients, he meets Parkinson’s patient Maggie Murdock (Hathaway). They start a meaningful relationship, but things get complicated as the relationship enters a serious phase.
A review by Film Nerd.
Anyone who has followed this blog would know I am a big fan of Edward Zwick, having at one point declared Edward Zwick Week on the blog and reviewing a number of his films. I was unfortunately unable to catch Love and Other Drugs at the cinema given that I was a little busy in the lead up to my marriage with Bride of Film Nerd. Now that the film has been released on Blu-Ray, I have rectified this error.
This was a very different film for me to watch, partially as it is a genre I have never personally seen Zwick cover before. The films of his that I have reviewed have always been historical war films that highlight specific chapters of history that have not been previously widely acknowledged. So having him direct a romantic dramedy is certainly a different direction. The result is a somewhat odd amalgam of what is unmistakably a Zwick film in direction but less so in content. On a first viewing, the film is somewhat difficult to follow at times, and may need repeat viewings to appreciate some of the scripting nuances, as certainly was the case for Courage Under Fire. However, though the film is quite entertaining, I do look forward to Zwick returning to some forgotten battlefield next time.
The film does succeed in presenting a Zwick type agenda. He aptly portrays the potential for the world of pharmaceutical sales to be very cut-throat, as would any occupation that relies on commission. I myself pictured in Randall every sales rep that has ever come to my lab with morning tea and any number of specials to try to draw us in to their product, with promises of “30% more effective” or “23% less likely to give you cancer”. NB, yes this is a somewhat unfair exaggeration. Even better portrayed though are the difficulties an illness can place on a relationship. Very hardcore subject matter, and I am pleased to say it is handled with dignity while still providing dramatic impact. The scenes that address these matters are the strongest in the film, and are well worth watching even for those that tuned in for the promise of seeing a starkers Hathaway! It is at this stage that the film really does become Zwick’s.
A major strength for the film is the charisma and talent of the two lead actor’s. Gyllenhaal exudes an effortless charm, and is just on the brink of being an overbearing salesperson without sliding down the path of necessarily being slimy. His actions may not be honest, but he remains likeable through so that we as an audience want for him to succeed. If his performance was great though, Hathaway’s is stellar. Her story arc from nymph to reserved as the relationship gets more serious is believable, and we see her gradually splinter as the disease takes greater hold of her. Hathaway has gradually been building a CV that shows her to be one of the most talented young actresses around today, and if she can continue to hone her craft from this amazing start, I would not be surprised in twenty years to hear her name mentioned in the same breath as Meryl Streep.
The supporting cast showed promise when we meet Hank Azaria’s medical practitioner, Randall’s prime target throughout the film. For someone more known for comic roles, his character’s side story does lend some further weight to the primary plot. Randall’s brother Josh (Gadd) however, is an odious boorish lay about whose redemption at the end of the film does little to excuse how he dragged down any scene in which he appeared. This is likely more to do with how thew character was scripted, as he really has no redeeming feature and whenever he was in shot all I was hoping for was that he would get out of it. He distracted from the main ideologies of the film, while adding little. In fact, his presence was so irritating, I think on his character alone this film loses a star.
A pretty negative note to end this review on I agree. However this is a worthy piece of cinema, though having a number of flaws. The elements that come throgh as very Zwick are the elements to watch out for most, that is of course if you are more interested in theme and story that seeing a full monty Hathaway. The latter though is simply a drawcard for a film that has a lot more to say, though which at times struggles to do so.
3 stars out of 5.