Jamie is a salesman with the gift of the gab, able to charm women in an instant. When he gets fired from his job at an electronics store, his brother informs him of an opportunity to work for Pfizer selling various drugs to local hospitals and doctors. As he attempts to peddle his wares, he comes across Maggie, a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Through sheer perseverance, Jamie finally charms Maggie and the two become somewhat of an item, just as a certain wonder drug hits the market, giving Jamie the chance to hit the big time. Can the two overcome their various obstacles and stay together?
Watching this film, I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the start of this year and start comparing it to another film: Up in the Air. I loved Up in the Air, I thought the mood, tone and story-telling was all done extremely well through some brilliant direction, some excellent performances from its leads and a definite sense of direction in as far as it knew what it wanted to do with itself. Love and Other Drugs tries to achieve the same thing with much the same elements, but somewhere along the way, something just seems to go wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad film; it’s an enjoyable near-two hour rom-com, one of the best I’ve seen in a while. The problem is, even though it’s a rom-com, it tries so hard to be like Up in the Air, that it forgets to remove the large amount of testosterone Up in the Air contained. It even tries to add a little bit of Seth Rogan/Jonah Hill-esque frat house/gross-out kind of humour at times. With all of these things going on, the film seems disjointed, the pace jumps about and doesn’t flow at all well; it makes for an uneasy viewing experience at times. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, even though the story it offers makes it pretty clear what it SHOULD have been. It’s a real shame, because aside from the deviance into various other genres and genre tropes, it is a cutesy love story with an edge which could have made this an appealing film for all audiences. It just seems to trip over itself consistently.
The lead performances from Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathaway are to be commended, and I’m sure that’s what you’ll have heard from this film in prior critics’ reviews. Well, that and the numerous sex scenes containing Anne Hathaway’s boobs. Shock horror! The princess from The Princess Diaries is getting her boobs out in her film. Indeed, during the first third of the film, it’s almost as if the director wants to make the most of an opportunity and delivers a gratuitous amount of boob shots, but after it, it calms down somewhat and moves the focus from pure titillation onto the relationship between Gyllenhall and Hathaway. They do what they have to do well, they both play their characters well, especially Hathaway who seems to have a knack of nailing a character dead on, hence her Oscar nomination for Rachel Getting Married. The problem is with the supporting cast, in particular Josh Gad, who plays Gyllenhall’s brother, who’s also called Josh just in case he gets confused. He brings the frat house/gross-out humour I spoke of earlier, but it just doesn’t fit in the film and only serves to bring it down, meaning he’s one of the low points with the film.
The only problem I find with Jake Gyllenhall is not his acting, but his character. Gyllenhall does absolutely nothing wrong, he does the best with what he’s given, but that’s where he falls down. He plays this role almost exactly like George Clooney in, yep, Up in the Air. Believe me, when you see Gyllenhall dressed in a suit wheeling around a mini-suitcase playing the womaniser, you’ll immediately see the similarities. Gyllenhall is just as culpable as the script writers here; he doesn’t make the role his own. He could easily be replaced by any generic, good-looking Hollywood leading man. The story is fine but by the final third, once everything’s been established, it falls into so many holes; the story, the characters and the dialogue all submit to various rom-com clichés and it becomes predictable and very-samey. It’s a shame, but you can kind of see it coming, so it’s not so much of a surprise when it finally does arrive.
Overall, it’s fine, and I’m sure Anne Hathaway will get a Best Actress nod at various award ceremonies (Edit: Anne Hathaway has been nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes. Jake Gyllenhall also got nominated for Best Actor) but it’s not really memorable. You can see why it’s been released now, at the start of the award season, but it’s not particularly outstanding, and by the end, it just falls into all sorts of rom-com clichés. At the end of the day, it’s everything Up in the Air wasn’t, but in a bad way. One gets the feeling that this film should have taken one of those ‘magic blue pills’ to keep itself going all the way until the end.