Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, George Segal

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Charles Randolph, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Jamie Reidy (novel)

Cinematography: Steven Fierberg

Original Score: James Newton Howard

Running Time: 112 mins.

Ed Zwick is a director best known for his sweeping tales set against historical backdrops or “big issues”, or both, Glory, Legends of the Fall, Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai to name but a few, all of which it comes as some surprise to learn that he has turned his hand to what appears on the tin to be a basic rom-com about a guy that just happens to sell Viagra, and in many other directors hands it may well have been just that, but given Zwick’s scope and skill based on his repertoire I would argue that were there not much more depth to, and beyond, the love story he wouldn’t have even given it a second glance. As it is, he has not only directed but had a hand in adapting the script from Jamie Reidy’s novel, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.

Knowing this, and knowing the basic premise, one would assume that the focus here would be upon the drug trade in relation to Viagra and the effects such a drug had on a.) the industry and more potently for a “love story” the effect it inevitably had on so many people’s love/sex lives, certainly an intriguing idea and one that could have been played for laughs, dramatic effect or both. Love and Other Drugs pitches at the latter though the Viagra connection is a misleading one as it simply provides the mid-section of a sub-plot and never really leads anywhere or offers anything beyond a few cheap jokes.

This means it is left to characters, specifically Gyllenhaal’s Jamie and Hathaway’s Maggie, to thrust the narrative onwards, both beginning as free-spirits that won’t be tied down and happily sleep around with as many beautiful people as they can and eventually progressing to a stage where…well you get the idea. What tangles the relationship is two-fold and brings forth the real “issues” of the film, firstly is Jamie’s deep seated self-loathing that has manifested itself through his philanthropic ways and his drive to get ahead whatever the cost, and more pertinently perhaps is that Maggie is in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Knowing this may start the alarm bells ringing as tv-movie of the week thoughts come to mind but rest assured in Zwick’s capable hands all aspects of Love and Other Drugs are handled commendably, never slumping to depths of wallowing in self-pity of melodramatic acting. Of course, that said, it helps that the stars are both charismatic and capable in equal measure, having acted together in Brokeback Mountain they are here allowed to demonstrate that their chemistry is electric, and provides the basis for a believable couple that for the most part experience the bickering and quarrels of “real life” that are all too often glossed over. It is in the handling of their love for one another despite the “issues” that gives the film its heart, always stopping short of corny make-up scenes of OTT emotional breakdowns over Maggies illness.

On the basis of this review you may expect a film bereft of a sense of fun or laughs, not so, again as buoyed along by the leads and a very funny support cast including Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria Love and Other Drugs is as breezy as it is serious, striking a tone of dramedy that won’t cause you to hold your head in your hands at cringe-worthy jokes or weep at the screen with depression, true there are scenes that bring a tear to the eye but this is in keeping with the spirit of something that is charming, enjoyable, believable and actually has something to say even if the final scenes are a little too saccharine than the preceding tangle that is more a representation of the truth than a fairytale ending.

It is hard to pick fault in such an enjoyable film that hits all the bases but there are occasions that sub-plot’s are spread a little thin, with many dropped or forgotten about for long periods of time, including certain characters such as Jamie’s business rivalry, or his brothers relationship problems, these are only minor quibbles and were necessary for reigning the running time in, though it is possible there is another story to be cleaved from Jamie Reidy’s book that takes the Viagra angle as it’s focus.

VERDICT

Love and Other Drugs provides a peak in the Winter doldrums, it is both touching and funny in equal measure in a truthful way, offering so much more than the average rom-com…but this is to be expected from such a skilled, and now evidently, versatile director who can do intimate as well as sweeping.


 

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