Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is your average all-American boy: born and raised in Chicago to a wealthy family of doctors, super intelligent, and ultra charming to all the ladies. “This is my Thai friend,” coos Lisa, one of his soon-to-be conquests, “I’m a little Thai-curious myself. She’s a little Jamie-curious” You can imagine where it goes from there.
Wait, that’s not what happens to everyone? Oh. Well, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone, that is, except Jamie.
Love and Other Drugs is based on the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by, not surprisingly, the real Jamie Randall (whose real last name is Reidy), and it sits back in awe of its protagonist, who’s portrayed as close a thing we mortals shall ever get to seeing an actual god.
And so it’s no surprise that when he meets the woman of dreams, Parkinson-sufferer Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway), the conflict in their relationship is driven almost entirely by her reluctance to fall in love with anyone due to her condition. “I hope you’re full of shit,” she says when they decide to become purely physical lovers, “Blow it out your a$$,” I think.
While Jamie’s career as a pharmaceutical rep begins to take off, Maggie comes around, and their relationship goes from purely sexual partners to official boyfriend and girlfriend. But even then this evolution is abrupt and breezed over so they can get the two in bed video-recording each other’s innermost thoughts and Gyllenhaal can have something to spur his Grand Realization that she’s His One True Love (when, of course, He Loses Her).
The bulk of scenes between these two plot points are filled in with the subplots of Randall’s brother moving in with him after his marriage crumbles and Randall’s professional courting of Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria), a prominent physician whose primary care is his own libido.
When the movie’s exhausted every subplot it can and is forced to return to the relationship, it skips ahead to the breakup, which is, of course, insisted upon by Maggie, when the two are at a pharmaceutical convention in Chicago (and where Jamie plans on proposing) and she attends a seminar on Parkinson’s in which fellow sufferers relate their experiences through an endless supply of stand-up routines.
She realizes that she loves Jamie too much to ask him to take care of her when the Parkinson’s renders her helpless, and the dialogue concerning her condition plays as something they’ve tossed back and forth but never really discussed. Huh? Wouldn’t you think that two people who are ready to spend their lives together would have had this talk many, many times before?
To be fair, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway’s characters had a lot of potential, but their relationship feels so forced it’s frustrating. Jamie and Maggie aren’t your typical dumb romantic couple, but their scenes together (the aforementioned “filming each other in bed”; the obligatory “she gets drunk [off a surprisingly small amount of vodka] and tells him they can never be together”; “the last-ditch grand dramatic gesture to win her back”) belong in a cookie-cutter romantic comedy.
Even though Randall is a bit too perfect, he has some genuinely interesting moments in the film’s many subplots, and Hathaway’s performance is much too good for a role that just wants to highlight her Parkinson’s.
Or Hathaway’s breasts, because the movie also displays a pronounced abundance of nudity and sex scenes between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway that are so numerous and drawn out they go long past wearing out their welcome and venture far into uncomfortable territory. When that well runs dry (so to speak), the film shifts back to another subplot.
Love & Other Drugs is not without its clever moments, as when Randall tries to push his anti-depressants on an unresponsive doctor and circumvents the problem by simply invading the back room and throwing his rival’s samples in the trash. And Josh Gad, as Randall’s brother, has a lot of very funny scenes (particularly when he discovers his brother’s sex tape), but ultimately the film is too scattershot to work.
The first half presents the interesting story of Randall’s up-and-coming sales career that provides the best scenes, but then it gets muddled in subplots, clichéd romance, and fawning over Randall. If Love and Other Drugs had a bit more faith in its characters instead of continuously falling back on distractions, cheap love, and eye-candy, it could have been excellent.
But then, nobody’s perfect, right?
Love and Other Drugs is rated R. Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by Edward Zwick, Charles Randolph, and Marshall Herskovitz; based on the book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy. Starring Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Hank Azaria.