From a young age, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for romantic comedies. Perhaps this is an odd thing for a guy to admit, but there was something comforting to be found in the trope, and in each film’s deviation from it. “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back” was told a hundred different ways, and none of them quite matched up to the formula exactly. Love & Other Drugs, then, I was expecting to at least enjoy. Unfortunately, due to the lackluster performance by both leads, due to the irrelevance of the social commentary, and most importantly, due to the complete lack of originality, this is the worst film I have seen from last year.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, an incredibly charismatic individual who moves between a couple of jobs, until he lands a gig working for Pfizer as a drug rep. He uses his wiles to get his samples into a certain clinic, where he eventually meets Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway), a woman with early onset Parkinson’s. They begin a relationship that is “intended” to be without strings, but as we all know, eventually they will fall in love.
Then, all of a sudden, Pfizer invents Viagra. The wonder drug, the drug that cures impotence, has arrived on the scene. Jamie has quickly become a sensation, a celebrity. His career parallels his personal life when he passionately strives to “fix” Maggie, to find a cure. The logic being, “If there is a cure for impotence, there has to at least be treatment for Parkinson’s.”
MILD SPOILERS (that you could probably guess anyways), SKIP SECTION
Maggie takes this determination as an indication that Jamie is no longer comfortable with her being sick; that his need to fix her invalidates who she is. They separate. A while later, after Jamie gets a big promotion, he is out celebrating with his partner (Oliver Platt), when he runs into Maggie at the bar with a guy whose name she can barely remember. They pass each other, but the next day she gets on a bus, and Jamie chases the bus, driving alongside the whole way. They meet at the end, and he tells her he needs her, and that she needs him. He wants to take care of her, but she doesn’t “need anyone’s help.” He says that we all do, she hesitates, they utter a handful of other worn and tired clichés, until they kiss and the film closes with a voiceover narration informing us that they were always meant for each other, and they’ll always be happy.
I kind of threw up a little.
MILD SPOILERS OVER
All those sentiments are fine and good, they are almost standard in any romantic comedy. But here, the actors could not make them believable. The interesting characters we saw at the beginning, defined by their idiosyncrasies, were replaced by machines delivering poorly written lines by the end. He should get her in the end, but if your reason is that you are both addicted to each other, that hardly seems valid.
Additionally, the cultural pharmaceutical phenomenon thing died years ago. We aren’t past our drugs, but everything from Prozac Nation to Charlie Bartlett has covered it, and we all kind of got it the last time around.
This is a film about self-medication, whether that medication is from a prescription, over-the-counter, or a relationship with someone else. And while some of the ideas are valid in the film, the way they come across vacillates between trite and contemptible. Don’t pay to watch this. If you’re interested catch it on cable, it will be there soon enough. It’s just not worth it.