Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Love and Other Drugs

This movie is about drug dealing; don’t let anyone tell you different.  Now that the pleasantries are out of the way we can discuss details.   Love and Other Drugs is based on the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy. The advertisement heavily implied a romantic comedy; a lighthearted romance story about two impossibly attractive people falling in love, likely involving “hilarious” misunderstandings, that you take your girlfriend to see because “chicks like that sort of stuff”.  Well if you’re into that genre prepare to be disappointed because this movie doesn’t fit into that category.  You’ll have to settle for whatever crappy movie Katherine Heigl is starring in this year since she’s currently Hollywood’s go to girl for awful romantic comedies (That said Knocked Up was actually a very sweet, heartwarming and fun film…that Heigl publically trashed for being sexist meaning that not only is she typecast she’s also a moron).  No, this film is more of a comedic drama that focuses on a romantic relationship between two people.  Obviously two different genres.  I braved seeing this film (Despite being alone and dateless and having to endure the two girls two rows behind me giggling at the black dude watching the “chick flick” by his goddamn self) because it had Oscar buzz surrounding it, especially involving Anne Hathaway, which is backed up by the somewhat downplayed-in-commercials incurable disease plot point.  As we all know such a plot device is too cerebral for most dumb comedies so I gave it a shot.
In the year 1996 Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a womanizing twenty-something under achiever.  He is almost super humanly adept at seducing women but seems to be more or less coasting through life.  After losing his job due to *ahem* inappropriate conduct with his co-worker/boss’ girlfriend his millionaire younger brother gets him a gig as a pharmaceutical salesman.  After fumbling around in the medical world for a bit he meets a pretty, and feisty, 26 year old Stage One Parkinson’s Disease patient named Maggie (Anne Hathaway) and proceeds to make it his mission to, shall we say, “tap that ass”.  Also there’s some stuff about Viagra, I guess.
 Jamie and Maggie in a rare moment of being clothed

Once we look past the direction the marketing department went it’s fair to say that this movie has a lot going for it on paper.  It stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gynehaal, who are both young and talented, deals with a relevant medical topic, and takes place in the 90s thus kicking off America’s proven obsession with Twenty Years Ago (Now that it’s 2010 the 80s are officially played out).  On the other hand it was directed by Edward Zwick who made an enemy out of me when he directed the pile of elephant dung known as The Last Samurai (Not to be confused with James Cameron’s Avatar) so it’s not all good news.  Sadly despite its promise it fails to live up to its implied hype.

 Seriously, f**k this movie

Speaking of Zwick this movie suffers from a similar problem that Dances with Japanese People The Last Samurai did: it totally lacks subtlety.  Every aspect of the film hits you over the head repeatedly until it is 100% positive that you got it.  For example in the opening sequence we’re treated to a caption that says “1996”.  Okay, cool, apparently this movie takes place in 1996.  Then over the course of the next half-hour out I’m treated to the most cliché 90s music they could possibly find, including the freaking Macarena complete with the dance, just in case I forgot what year this was.  This type of thing happens throughout the film as characters have a bad habit of telling me exactly what they’re feeling as I’m watching them experience it.  Why does Maggie keep telling me she has Parkinson’s?  I know she has Parkinson’s because her desire for Parkinson’s medication led to her meeting Randall in the first place.   Plus she’s clearly suffering the effects of the Parkinson’s.  I don’t need her to keep repeating that she has Parkinson’s since I remember her saying it the first time an hour ago.  See how sick you are of me saying that word?  At some point Maggie says that she doesn’t want the disease to define her s a person and I was surprised when Jamie didn’t laugh out loud over the irony.  Look Mr. Zwick you don’t have to hold my hand and spell the movie out for me, I’m smart enough to understand it myself.
Since I’ve already started talking about the annoying bits of this film I might as well also mention that despite it that it’s not supposed to be a romantic comedy it does in fact have pretty much all of the clichés we’ve all seen in those types of flicks.  If you’ve seen any film where a guy meets a girl and they fall in love then congratulations you’ve basically already seen Love and Other Drugs and don’t need to spend the money on the movie ticket.  Just replace the girl’s uptight nature/terrible boyfriend/whatever typical conflict present to make her hesitant to date the main guy with Stage One Parkinson’s and that’s our film.  This movie was extremely predictable.  I was really hoping that the ending at least would have played against type but nope!  This is likely the one time you’ll ever hear me say I wish a movie took a page out of Chasing Amy’s book because at least the ending in that movie threw me curveball (It was a curveball made out of garbage and hate but still…).  Also there were tons of scenes that felt really unnecessary for furthering the plot, but as more than one of them involved Hathaway-type nudity I suppose whether or not that’s a negative is up to you.  The scenes where Jamie tries Viagra and every scene featuring the character Trey Hannigan were completely pointless no matter which way you swing it, however.
Speaking of Hathaway she brings a strong performance as Maggie, which isn’t surprising.  She has a ton of acting ability, or at least such a strong presence and inherent charisma that it’s hard to give her negative commentary.  It doesn’t hurt that she’s one of the most gorgeous women in the world and likely has Hollywood’s greatest smile.  In fact I think it’s time for Beta to become superficial for a minute and update the Hottest Women in Hollywood List.  It now reads as:
#4: Amy Acker
#3: Kat Dennings
#2: Anne Hathaway
#1:  Michelle Trachtenberg
(Note that Trachtenberg is a distant first place)
Hopefully, to balance things out, she's actually a terrible person in real life

Anyway she’s easily the most likable and developed person in this flick but I think she is still below her role in Rachel Getting Married in terms of pure awesome acting so I’ll be shocked if she wins an Oscar for this (Which is just as well since she’s HOSTING THE DAMN THING THIS YEAR!  Conflict of interest much?).  That said she never comes off as being corny despite playing a character with Parkinson’s which is very easy to do if an actor screwed up even a little and I think she should be praised for that.   However I think the role would have been more challenging, and thus more interesting, if Maggie was suffering from Stage Two rather than Stage One but I guess that would have called for an older actress anyway.  Jake Gyllenhaal is alright as Jamie.  The character is the poster child of the Generation X slackers (Before they aged into the geriatric ancient mariners we pity today), a role we don’t see too often these days but was very common during the 90s.  He’s neither bad nor wonderful, but he is pretty damned attractive and that’s probably something you already knew.  Hank Azaria as Dr. Knight is pretty great though, but that’s because Hank “Don’t Call Me Apu” Azaria is pretty great in everything he’s in.  There’s no such thing as a bad Hank Azaria performance though a good Hank Azaria performance can still take place in a horrible, horrible film (See: the American Godzilla movie).
Also there are a lot of naked people in this movie.  I hope you like seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s butt.
One of these people is an extremely sexy and attractive thespian
The other is Maggie Gyllenhaal

This movie is predictable and cliché and there’s no way to ignore it, but I am such a hopeless romantic that I still enjoyed the film regardless.  The problem I have is that just because I like the recipe doesn’t mean I want to eat the same meal every night.  It’s probable that those involved were banking on some Academy Awards nods but unless those Oscars are made out of chocolate I’m assuming they won’t be taking home any that night.  However this is one of Anne Hathaway’s breast best roles and if you’re looking for films that showcase her talents as an actress then this is likely the penultimate example.  At the end of the day though there are a lot of better movies in this genre and there’s nothing here you haven’t seen somewhere else.  I may be underselling this film a bit, after all I did come out of the theater thoroughly entertained, but giving this flick Four Pandas puts in on the same level as The Social Network, which is probably one of the three best films of 2010, and that’s not right.  Therefore…
I give Love and Other Drugs 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5, but consider it a high ranking 3.

-A solid performance by the usually charming Anne Hathaway
-A fun distraction that’s still better than the typical romantic comedy disaster
-The movie lacks subtlety in everything from the soundtrack to dialogue
-Has the same plot as about 56,594 other films
-There’s no classy way to discuss Anne Hathaway’s almost ludicrously large amount of nude scenes

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