December 01, 2010

MOVIES: Love and Other Drugs (Edward Zwick, 2010)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are in fine form in this not-so-comic romantic comedy about the relationship between two people who are each convinced, for different reasons, that they don't really deserve to find true love.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie, the black sheep of his family; after dropping out of medical school and failing at assorted business endeavors, he finally finds success as a pharmaceutical salesman, pushing the newest drugs to doctors throughout the Ohio Valley. Once he gets his hands on Viagra, his career really takes off.

Hathaway is Maggie, a character who teeters perilously close to Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory without ever quite toppling over the edge; she has early-onset Parkinson's, and doesn't want to burden anyone else with the prospect of caring for her as her condition worsens.

Given that setup, there's nothing in the plot that's going to surprise you much -- they meet cute, they start dating (but nothing serious, they both insist), they fall in love, the stress tears them apart, yada yada yada. There's even the climactic scene where one hops into a car to chase after the other to deliver the "I can't live without you" speech.

But Jaime and Maggie are far enough outside the norm for this type of movie, and Gyllenhaal and Hathaway's performances solid enough, that the movie rises somewhat above the limitations of its genre, and proves surprisingly entertaining. (On a shallow personal note: This is the first time I've ever found Gyllenhaal sexy; he's always been too boyish and scrawny before. And when he tried to bulk up for Prince of Persia, he just wound up looking silly, as most men do when they're overinflated to that extent.)

The movie's glaring weakness is its principal supporting character, Jamie's brother Josh, played by Josh Gad, who could only have been cast after a conversation that included the phrase "whaddya mean we can't afford Jonah Hill?," and who is even more annoying and untalented than Hill. (I know, I wouldn't have thought it was possible, either.)

It's nice to see Jill Clayburgh, though, in her final role; only a single scene, and she's not the focus, but she makes a nice impression. And I was impressed by a small technical thing -- there are scenes late in the movie filmed outside as the snow falls, and it's the most realistic looking snowfall I've ever seen, swirling around as snow does instead of simply dropping straight to earth as movie snow tends to do. I don't know if it was filmed in real snow or just faked better than usual, but I appreciated it.

Those who are either drawn to or repulsed by such things should be aware that there is more nudity than we would expect to see from stars at this level, but none of it is gratuitous, and it never feels tacky.

It's a nice movie. There are a lot of better ones out there at this time of year, and I wouldn't put this at the very top of my list "must see now" list, but you'll enjoy it when it pops up on cable next spring.

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