Love and Other Drugs
Directed by Edward Zwick
Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are so frequently naked in Love and Other Drugs, and in such consistently awkward positions and casual circumstances, that, even accounting for their respective fitness percentiles, the movie offers a consistently believable rendering of how two people who are about to bone, or are boning, or have recently boned (there's-a lotta boning!), look and act around each other. What's funny about it, though, is that this frankness is just one element of a bewilderingly schizophrenic movie.
The source here is a 2005 memoir, by one Jamie Reidy, about his cutthroat days as a Pfizer rep at the dawn of Viagra. Onto the premise—pharmaceutical-biz alpha dogs memorizing the respective side-effects of Zoloft and Prozac, one-upping the competition, flirting with nurses and schmoozing doctors—an array of producers and screenwriters seem to have lumped a dizzying array of plot threads and tonal registers, like a game of Exquisite Corpse, or a foundering political campaign.
Gyllenhaal, in Wayfarers and Dockers and, eventually, a black Porsche convertible, is charming-caddish born salesman Jamie (he's quick-witted but dropped out of med school because of his physician father); Hathaway is Maggie, a coffee-shop waitress who listens to Liz Phair's "Supernova" in the loft apartment where she works on her art. She's got early-onset Parkinson's and trusts this smooth-talker (first glimpsed, in his previous job, selling granny her first cell phone through the power of flirtation, then sneaking into the storeroom with a coworker) to keep things casual—but will these two hard-shelled yet beautiful and charming and obviously-in-love people teach each other to, um, love?
As much as in any film in recent memory, director Ed Zwick uses montage to get from Story Beat A to Story Beat B, and to smooth the transition between L&OD's strands of inside-baseball professional coming-of-age (Pfizer's sales training involves keeping doctors dry with branded umbrellas, and, after the "fuck drug" hits the market, tossing Viagra samples out at a bar like boom-time stockbrokers buying everybody shots), fratboy comedy (erections lasting longer than the duration of a gratuitous threesome are not normal, and require immediate medical attention), and banter-y rom-com, here with an empathy-grabbing, moral-commitment requiring terminal-illness obstacle. The different gears never click together: scenes feel as indiscriminately selected as the cultural signifiers from the second Clinton administration. (As Jaime's porn-addicted brother, Josh Gad does a little of both, adding some uncomfortable Apatow-dude improv-raunch, and a dotcom boom subplot.) Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have enough earnest, quick-witted chemistry to make their circling of each other nearly as enjoyable as it is arbitrary, but it's not worth the side effects.
Opens November 24