April 7, 2011


Oliver Platt is like a terrible curse. Platt is a great actor – he’s one of the best working actors in the world – but often he’s in great movies that no one sees (The Ice Harvest) or is the best thing in bad movies that either make money (2012) or don’t (Year One). Love and Other Drugs didn’t find its audience, but like always Oliver Platt is one of the best things in it.

Alas, the movie – which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway – is two bad movies for the price of one. One half is a drippy, slightly period romantic comedy, and the other is a disease of the week film. Together they equal a rather terrible effort that will always have an audience because of the nudity that will across in Google searches for people looking to see Hathaway naked. My review of the Blu-ray of Love and Other Drugs follows after the jump.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, the privileged son of a doctor (George Segal) who’s made a life for himself as a salesman. When opportunity rises he joins up with the medical community, pimping Zoloft over Prozac, and he works with Platt’s Bruce Winston – who just wants to get transferred to Chicago, and sees Jamie as his golden ticket. Jamie finds it hard to get into the medical community, though has no problem sleeping with receptionists (played by the likes of Judy Greer). But while trying to hawk drugs he meets Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria) and asks to be his intern where he meets-cute Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), who begins the film by taking her boob out.


The idea of a sexually frank movie is actually sort of exciting, but this film is like a rom-com with more boobs than we’re used to. Theoretically this makes sense, as Rom-coms are a hard sell to men and the thought of seeing Hathaway naked should be enough to make it good for both parties, but that didn’t really work, and the film isn’t so much honest about sex as it just features more nudity than normal.

Anyway, after their meet-cute she beats him up and takes his picture for taking advantage of her. But then  he gets her number and the two go out for coffee. She sees through him, but proves to be more about business than he, which leads to an immediate tryst. This is where director Edward Zwick is a terrible choice for the material. He has no eye for the frankness involved, and so there’s never that great sense of intimacy. You never feel like these are two people who just fucked the shit out of each other, and you never feel that close to something real or even just passion.


Then it’s revealed that the reason why she wants less commitment than him is because she’s got Parkinson’s. Their relationship keeps building and that’s the central conflict – she’s sick. Then he gets assigned to Viagra, which he can sell like hotcakes.

love-and-other-drugs-blu-ray-box-art-01Love and Other Drugs is terribly misguided from the start. Director Zwick – in mixing his drama with slight romantic comedy – can be credited with one thing, getting to the “no strings attached/friends with benefits” narrative before the films with those names, and this is very much based on that ideal. A friend described these narratives as simple: as female fantasy films because they are movies about men who are told that it’s just about sex, but eventually want more. The “fantasy” in all of these films is that the men want commitment before the women do.

But the mixture of drama and comedy never jells. This is overpowered by its lightness, and you almost want the lightness to win, but Zwick seems to be going for something in the Cameron Crowe/James L. Brooks wheelhouse, and bricks. This also feels like a movie that should have been made decades ago. It’s kind of a distaster, but the cast make it not entirely painful. Except for Josh Gad as Jamie’s brother. He seems a leftover from another draft where this was straight comedy. He also is terrible in the film, and an annoyance every second he’s on screen.

Twentieth Century Fox presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround. The film also comes with a digital copy. Extras include three deleted scenes (8 min.),  and a number of featurettes. The first is “Love and Other Drugs: An Actor’s Discussion” (8min.) with heavy Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway participation, which is followed “Beautifully complex: Anne Hathaway as Maggie” (3 min.) that has Anne offer her thoughts on the role, and “Reformed Womanizer: Jake Gyllenhaal on Jamie” (4 min.) that has Jake ruminate on his character. “Selling Love and Other Drugs”(3 min.) focuses on the drug sales in the film, and the disc closes out with the film’s theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers.

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  • EV M

    I enjoyed your take on the flick, Andre, but you’re more generous to it than I could be. I checked out the Blu-ray last week, and couldn’t force myself to spend more than a half hour watching it before I reached my limit. Hathaway was luminous, likable, sympathetic and sexy in her role, worlds too good for Gyllenhaal’s protodouche.

    The whole thing is done in by its own script, which is so bad it’s surreal it got made with the pedigree that it did.

    The production gets it wrong from the very first frame of the movie when it comes to selling the 1996 backdrop, with a Spin Doctors song playing over the soundtrack as a placemarker. Spin Doctors? So we’re listen to a song that charted in 1993, while Gyllenhaal’s electronics salesman dances with a ghettoblaster cassette deck on his shoulder that’s 10 years out-of-style, while surrounded by bigscreen flat panel TVs that wouldn’t even exist yet, but barely one square tube set in the whole store.

    The family circus orbiting Gyllenhaal’s character belongs in a different movie altogether.

    Hank Azaria and George Segal were casting mistakes; their mugging presence only helps to tip the film into comedy by association.

    The less said about Josh Gad as Gyllenhaal’s brother, the better.

    And from the end of the first scene, all you want to do is pull the protagonist’s jacket over his head and beat him until his ears bleed. This is a problem if your movie is a romantic drama.

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