Strong romantic drama that nearly overstays its welcome
Edward Zwick has always been a director on the cusp of greatness but never quite reaches it. He may not hit the masterpiece level, but he almost always makes a film that’s very good. You can never say Zwick’s made a bad film, nor an average one, but he has a steady range of making good to very good films. Glory notwithstanding, Zwick has another film that hits that “good but not great” level in Love and Other Drugs.
A return to the romantic drama for Zwick for the first time since About Last Night, Love follows the romantic inclinations of two people who wind up in love: pharmaceutical sales rep Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and tortured artist Maggie (Anne Hathaway). Both go into the relationship wanting just sex after a one night stand and wind up getting much more than they either imagined they’d want from one another. The film focuses on their relationship and its ups and downs, working mainly because it has two lead stars with an amazing level of chemistry.
Hathaway and Gyllenhaal aren’t strangers on screen, having played a married couple in Brokeback Mountain, but their chemistry together on screen back then made you wonder what they could’ve done on screen with one another given the proper context. The two have an unconventional relationship on screen that begins to turn into a conventional one but all throughout have terrific chemistry with one another. Considering they’re on screen for most of the film’s running time their chemistry is what will make or break the film; if they didn’t connect on as high a level as they do the film wouldn’t work. The two have a dynamic, powerful chemistry that elevates everything involved in the film.
It doesn’t hurt that they have a relatively interesting script to work with. This isn’t the usual sort of teen-friendly romantic comedy with plot contrivances designed to keep the film light and fluffy. This is a film bereft of “meet cutes” and other sorts of things that make up the genre. This is an honest and sometimes brutal take on an adult romance, warts and all, and it’s sometimes hard to watch in its intensity. This isn’t a film with two people who look good together on screen discovering they love one another through a series of contrived and sometimes insulting plot devices; it’s about two people finding each other in a world when everything seems to be taking them in different paths apart from one another.
It’s refreshing to see a film that aims for this as opposed to the usual romantic comedy clichés. Hathaway and Gyllenhaal also don’t have a problem with nudity, either, which makes the film much more interesting because it allows for some markedly funny jokes involving it as well as some of the film’s better moments. This is a film with an R rating that earns for nudity alone but Zwick just doesn’t use it for gags. There’s a great moment when the two are together in bed, discussing the paths that got them to where they are, and Zwick doesn’t have to frame his shot or use excessive coverings. It’s a raw and powerful moment with two actors clearly comfortable with one another that resonates on a deeper level.
The problem is that the film needs other things to do besides focus on their romance so there’s the occasional “wacky” comedic moments involving Jamie’s brother Josh (Josh Gad). Once or twice would’ve been a nice break from the film’s sometime ham-fisted approach at story-telling but it’s painful to watch in the quantities involved. It’s not that Gad’s a bad actor, or that he and Gyllenhaal don’t have the sibling dynamic down, it feels out of place on any number of levels. The film is a bit padded because of it, stretching out to nearly two hours when most of the scenes could be taken out easily without a problem. It doesn’t do anything to enhance or detract from the film; it just exists for the sake of.
Love and Other Drugs isn’t a perfect film but in comparison to the rest of the romantic comedies and dramas that have littered 2010 it’s Citizen Kane in comparison.
Director: Edward Zwick Notable Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Gad, Judy Greer, Oliver Platt, Gabriel Macht, Hank Azaria Writer(s): Edward Zwick, Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz based off the novel “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.