Love And Other Drugs

Director    Edward Zwick
Starring    Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad
Release    29 DEC (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars


20th December 2010

When does a rom-com stop being a rom-com? When it's R-rated? You'd think that the very definition of such a certification would ensure that the usual saccharine sentiment is swapped out for something more substantial. Unfortunately, no amount of F-bombs, extensive nudity and scenes of distressing drama can save this film from all the well-known romantic comedy trappings. So, essentially, this is just When Harry Fucked Sally.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie Randall, an intelligent waster who becomes a corporate douchebag, doing anything to make a pharmaceutical sale and bone any woman he sees along the way. That is until he meets his match with Anne Hathaway's free-spirited artist Maggie and the two become relationship-resistant fuck buddies. Of course, over time, Jamie starts to fall for Maggie, instead of just on her, but she has early onset Parkinson's disease and refuses to get too close to anyone for fear of rejection, blah-blah-blah.

Maggie's illness certainly raises an interesting dilemma - does Jamie sacrifice his womanising ways and an increasingly successful career (selling Viagra, no less) to have a steadily worsening relationship with the woman he loves, which will eventually see him have to look after her in all sorts of undignified ways? It's clear from the outset that there is no neatly wrapped-up happy ending to be had in this situation (after all, this is real life, y'all), and in that respect, director (and co-screenwriter) Edward Zwick tries very hard to make this film rise above its rom-com tropes.

[gallery]However, even with such a sombre subject at its heart, Love and Other Drugs still feels like it is sugar-coating the real consequences of Maggie's disease in favour of a 'love conquers all' message. As a result, the film never quite escapes the usual romantic comedy clichés (I lost count, but there's at least 5 montages) and neither does it quite strike the right balance between comedy and drama.

Gyllenhaal is genuinely entertaining as the fast-mouthed slick salesperson with all the right moves, and the film's funniest moments come during the banter he shares with both his fat sideshow brother Josh (Gad) and his relenting sales trainer Bruce (Platt). Somewhere in the middle of the film, there are a few choice moments for Hank Azaria, as a top-flight doctor and purchaser of Jamie's products, but ultimately he just seems wasted in such a straight-laced role.

Then there's Hathaway, who almost singlehandedly creates enough chemistry with her co-star to sell the main relationship and has plenty of on-screen sparkle to carry the couple's most endearing scenes. Annoyingly though, her character has been given one of those bullshit creative fascinations on a par with the kid from American Beauty who filmed a dancing carrier bag - in her case, a penchant for polaroids shows off her 'artistic integrity'.

Despite the relatively little she has to work with, though, Hathaway also turns in an impressive (albeit not quite Oscar-worthy) portrayal of Maggie's tragic symptoms and the heartache they bring - switching from frank sexuality to soul-crushing anxiety when she can't steady her own hand long enough to pour herself a drink. Aaaaaand, not to belittle these fine acting achievements, but it shouldn't go unsaid that she spends about half of the film with her kit off. However, don't worry ladies, with every close-up of Hathaway's breasts, there's always a glimpse of Gyllenhaal's buttocks not far behind.

So, while the film pretends to be an awardsy type drama with added humour, enjoying it will really only depend on one of two things: your stomach for romantic comedies or your interest in seeing either of the two co-stars in the buff. I quite enjoyed it, but then I really like rom-coms. Honest.

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