Every now again, Hollywood manages to produce a romantic comedy that reminds why they haven’t yet junked the genre altogether. “Love and Other Drugs," starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, is such a film.
“Love and Other Drugs,” based on Jamie Reidy’s memoir "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," stars Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall, a directionless 30-ish guy drifting through adulthood. With the help of his younger brother, a newly minted software millionaire, Jamie gets a sales job with Pfizer, and is assigned to sell Zoloft throughout Ohio.
During a visit to a doctor’s office, Jamie poses as an intern, and watches as a patient, Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway), has a spot on her breast examined. It’s not until she catches up with him in the parking lot that she realizes his true identity, and nearly beats him unconscious with her purse, then snaps his photo with an old-school Polaroid and storms off, throwing him a one-finger salute over her shoulder. So Jamie of course gets Maggie’s phone number from the receptionist and begs her for “coffee.” Once you get past the idea that a breast examination is somehow sexy and that Maggie hasn’t yet called the police, you’re in for a smart and funny film about two seriously damaged people growing up just enough to fall in love.
Gyllenhaal, for perhaps the first time since “Bubble Boy,” portrays a multi-faceted person who experiences the full range of human emotions. Hopefully he’s gotten “Prince of Persia” out of his system and will continue to act. Hathaway smartly doesn’t overplay Maggie’s Parkinson’s, despite the disease consuming more of her life than she’d like. She’s tough and sexy, but determined to keep Jamie at an arm’s length for fear of needing him or, worse yet, being rejected by him because she is sick.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were previously in an onscreen romance in “Brokeback Mountain,” and that experience pays dividends here. The level of comfort between the two, especially considering the amount of nudity, is remarkable. Director Ed Zwick does a great job of shooting the sex scenes in such a way that it actually looks natural.
The morality, ethics and practices of the pharmaceutical and medical industries are part of the film’s backdrop, and to the credit of screenwriters Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz and Zwick, the film resists polemics or rants. It takes a couple of deserved shots at Pfizer et al., but it doesn’t get up on a soapbox.
The DVD version of the film comes with the requisite deleted scenes, which, as is the norm, you watch and think, “Yeah, they were smart to cut that.” But there a couple of featurettes with Gyllenhaal, Hathaway and Zwick that offer some interesting insights into the actors’ process. The most interesting extra, however, is titled “Selling Love & Other Drugs,” in which Jamie Reidy, who wrote the book on which the film is based, talks about the world of Big Pharma sales, tossing around jargon like “Front Desk Cindy,” the nickname given to all receptionists, whom salesmen regard as gatekeepers.
“Love & Other Drugs” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD