If you want to see a movie where Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway display enough sexual chemistry to start real life romance rumors, than “Love and Other Drugs” is for you. If you want a movie that features a by the numbers plot with sitcom-inspired comedy situations and where you don’t really care about the characters when it all comes to an end (even though one is suffering from a major disease) than “Love and Other Drugs” is also for you. Yes, if “Drugs” sounds like a movie that’s all over the place, it is.
Edward Zwick’s first romantic dramedy since “About Last Night…” way back in 1986, “Drugs” finds Gyllenhaal playing Jamie, a smart, but unfocused rich kid trying to make his way in mid ’90s America without the help of dear old dad. We immediately discover Jamie’s biggest asset is his confident charm and ladies man sexual libido which seems perfect for his new gig as a Pfizer pharmaceutical rep. Eventually placed in the field somewhere in Ohio (we’re never really told where) with a more experienced superior trying to get transferred back to Chicago (a misused Oliver Platt), Jamie discovers it’s harder than you’d think to convince doctors to order Zoloft when their patience are in love with competitor Prozac. Just when you think the picture is going to turn into a work place wonder, Jamie meets Maggie (Hathaway), a patient of the one hotshot doctor (Hank Azaria, also wasted) who could be his ticket to the big time. Over retread Cameron Crowe dialogue trying to be so un-cliche only these two pros can make it work, Jamie and Maggie instantly become sexual partners with no strings attached. Of course, their sexual encounters — which allow fans of both actors to get prime views — lead to the expected realization that they have a deeper connection. That’s when the romantic cliches start to appear in droves. Sadly, when the movie insists on going down a dark route with Maggie’s disease the tone really flies all over the place. And still, you know there is going to be a happy ending in there somewhere because, well, it’s one of those movies. Oh, and did we forget to mention James ends up becoming the perfect salesman for…Viagra? Well, don’t worry about it, it’s really not that important to the picture’s plot in the long run.
One of the biggest red flags that “Drugs” is nothing more than a slick piece of commercial entertainment (not that there is anything wrong with that if it’s done right) is the lame subplot centering on Jamie’s brother Josh (“21’s” Josh Gad). Supposedly an IPO millionaire, he spends most of the picture sleeping on Jamie’s couch after leaving his wife over marital problems. This makes almost no sense other the than to have Gad around to provide gross out and un-funny comic relief. Which seems obviously calculated to appeal to the few young men in the audience.
Those issues aside, “Love and Other Drugs” is not inherently a bad movie. It’s just not a very good one. Instead it’s a perfectly fine Hollywood dramedy that has been unfortunately pegged as something that could be awards worthy because of its stars and release date. Does that mean Hathaway and Gyllenhaal or the picture can’t land expected Golden Globe nods? Of course not. Subconsciously the HFPA would like nothing better for Gyllenhaal and Hathaway’s smiling faces to come walking down the show’s red carpet. Does that mean either of them will duplicate that feat at the Oscars? Don’t bet on it.
“Love and Other Drugs” opens nationwide on Nov. 24.