D: Edward Zwick. DP: Steven Fierberg. W: Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal/Anne Hathaway/Oliver Platt/Hank Azaria/Josh Gad/Judy Greer/Gabriel Macht/Katheryn Winnick. (Based on Jamie Reidy’s book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.)
Fairing decently at the box office, but mostly going unnoticed, this fall’s Love & Other Drugs cements stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal as our age’s most doe-eyed creatures. But, the film also acts as a deep marker of the changes in the way sex and nudity are manipulated to create a story.
Gyllenhaal’s douche-bag Jamie meets artsy, sexy girl with flaws in Hathaway’s Maggie and life just changes when someone meets their match. Set to the backdrop of 1996, when new enhancement drug Viagra first hit the market, Gyllenhaal’s Jamie is a great figure of money hungry, young sales people embracing the business of health-care. Flanked by decent supporting spots from Greer, Platt and Azaria, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are, of course, able to shine and attempt to give a morsel of depth to their film. Somewhat newcomer Josh Gad is memorable as Gyllenhaal’s down in the dumps brother, but much like many plot points, never actually evolves into something substantial.
However, the problem with Love & Other Drugs is that it does not know what movie it wants to be. The film enlists certain romantic-comedy genre traits (plot devices such as love changes people’s views on relationships, the sex-driven character is redeemed by love, and oh, the declarations scenes). Yet the film also runs around with heavier concepts rooted in the heath profession, care for chronic illnesses, power plays in relationships, and the sexual evolution of cinema.Towards the beginning of the film there are excellent scenes that explore the preparation and sale of pharmaceuticals and audiences get to really listen to the banter and strategy that colors Gyllenhaal’s life. Yet although these scenes have a lot to unpack, they are sadly unbalanced with the rest of the film, which is riddled with charming montages of Gyllenhaal and Hathaway and sprinkled with gratuitous sex scenes and Hathaway’s breasts.
In a recent article (cover piece in fact) both actors and director Fierberg discussed the necessity of Hathaway’s nudity in the film. Fierberg declared how essential it was to the film and the character of Maggie, such that everyone worked hard to make Hathaway comfortable on set and with that concept. Yet most audiences will probably feel that her nudity was not necessary to the plot or the character of Maggie, a woman struggling with what she wants to hide and what she wants to show to others. (Let’s not forget that life and people are more complicated than, sex = escape, freedom = nakedness). That being said, by the end of the film most audience members will be rather mystified as to why half the theater is laughing, the other half is crying and might be, like me, simply confused. Go ahead, find out for yourself.