Love and Other Drugs is one of those romantic comedies that opens with pop music. It’s retro pop music because the movie is set in the ‘90s, but it’s still one of those movies that has no personality of its own so it tries to bogart a song that conveys personality. They even construct an impromptu dance montage in the opening credits, woven “seamlessly” into the plot and character establishment.
Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a pharmaceutical rep hounding doctors’ offices to push samples of Zoloft. His powers of seduction come in handy with the receptionists, but he actually falls for a patient, Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway).
I would be down for a smart romance set against a backdrop of medical ethics, but that’s not what Love and Other Drugs is. This movie is trying so hard to be cute and clever it is annoying. The dialogue is so intent on characters dressing up their words, it draws attention to itself. No one can just say, “This is what’s happening to me.”
Here’s the difference between real clever and fake clever. Real clever leaves the point implied so the viewer can make the connection. Think Social Network. Fake clever is when characters express every single theme that’s supposed to be implied by their actions. Jamie uses all his medical knowledge to diagnose every character he encounters. Maggie analyzes Jamie’s pick-up game to explain their connection, or makes jokes to spell out her entire medical history. Those are all just references, not implications.
All the characters talk too much. Jamie’s brother Josh (Josh Gad) fills the role of the sleazeball best friend. His mom and dad (Jill Clayburgh and George Segal in only one scene) just plow through exposition about their sons’ backstories. Jamie’s partner and mentor, Bruce (Oliver Platt) just spews words out. I don’t blame the actors. You’ve got to work. The writing and directing should have been more subtle and let the scenes sit for a moment.
There are lots of hot bodies and nudity though. The sex scenes between Jamie and Maggie are hot. Hathaway even tries blocking the view with her arm or pulling the sheets up, but her boob keeps popping out. You see Gyllenhaal’s butt a lot too, but more her.
There is such inherent drama in this relationship and the world of pharmaceutical ethics, couldn’t Ed Zwick just trust the material? The training methods Pfizer teaches their reps are interesting. Jamie’s game is more powerful than The Mystery Method too. Seriously, he could host a “Seduce and Destroy” seminar. There’s a really healthy scene where Maggie builds up Jamie’s self-esteem when he doesn’t even know he’s insecure. That’s followed by a totally fake love moment.
Love and Other Drugs has a substantive message about relationships and medicine, but it’ buried in the insincere rom-com. Maggie’s emotional moment is hardcore, and when Jamie breaks through her rejection, even I fell for him. All I can remember though are people talking with their mouths full and bumbling around on the phone.