Misinformed – We’ve been down this track before, but it’s still worth noting how important a title can be to a film. With the wrong title, producers can lose millions of potential dollars, all because there was too much or too little thought in what the name of the film should be. Sounds simple, because it is and yet we find ourselves wondering what films like “Freddy Got Fingered,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats” or “Killers” are really about. So it goes without saying when I sat down to watch “Love and Other Drugs,” I had no clue what to expect, which oddly became the smartest thing I could have done.
What’s it about? In the simplest of terms, this entire film is based around two lost souls who fall in love with each other back in the late 90’s. It’s not about being in love with drugs or falling in love while on drugs, it’s about Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), who after meeting in the strangest of situations strike up a likeness to one another after a few choice one-night stands. Jamie is an up-and-coming Pfizer pharmaceutical rep. while Maggie spends her days volunteering and being a professional artist. But, as we quickly find out, there was a lot more to each of their stories. For Maggie, there was the unfortunate truth that she was at the beginning stages of battling Parkinson’s disease while Jamie simply never had found the love he craved so much for so long. Two completely different spectrums and yet, they found solace with one another the longer they hung out. That was until one day it hit them, turning what appeared to be a ‘happily ever after’ love story on its head leading to a conclusion that might have you laughing and crying.
Natural chemistry – For those that never saw “Brokeback Mountain,” this isn’t the first time that Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal have mixed it up on the big screen, having already done so for the 2005 Ang Lee masterpiece. And for me, even knowing how good these two were together didn’t prepare me for the fireworks they created in this film, both with and without clothes. Not since Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, have we been treated with such joy on the big screen and I would go as far as to say Jake and Anne might be even more compatible. That’s probably an argument for another day, but given the type of acting each has done thus far, I would put the youngsters ahead as it was a blast to watch them work within “Love and Other Drugs.” Having said that, I do admit Jake and Anne have a long way to go before meeting the level held by the legendary Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, but it’s still fun to think about.
Underlying reality – Although you don’t realize it at first, the story in “Love and Other Drugs” is quite serious. Sure, it has a lot of laughs and all, but the truth’s laid out about Parkinson’s is rewarding to watch, as too little of us know a whole lot about it. And what I liked is how writer/director Edward Zwick didn’t shy away from how detrimental this disease can be, to not only the people with it, but those close to them as well. Zwick even went as far as to throw in a scene where, I assume, real people with Parkinson’s met to discuss and talk about their everyday struggles and triumphs. Sure, Anne Hathaway was added to this group, but it was an extremely raw scene to endure. That to me is where this film will eventually shine with anyone willing to give it a chance, as it probably is the story no one will take from this film, opting for the pharmaceutical angle instead. And don’t get me wrong, it was nice to see a film based around this industry that is truly enormous, yet one no one ever talks about unless you happen to be related to someone in it. But, even it and the topic of Viagra took a backseat to the love and life journey Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters were taking together. So, while I could get on Zwick for some obvious plot holes here or there, overall it didn’t deter me from enjoying some amazing acting and storytelling, which in the end is all I wanted.
Bottom Line – Flying under the radar takes on a new meaning with “Love and Other Drugs,” as I would bet this is the first time most people have even heard of it. That’s too bad because this is one of the films everyone should see, as it offers a unique love story with a sobering twist that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
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