If you’ve longed to see Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway rekindle their Brokeback Mountain romance or if you’ve always wanted to watch Donnie Darko plough Princess Mia in extensive detail, your wait is over.
It’s 1996 and Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is a potential-wasting ladies’ man who goes into the business of pharmaceutical sales with Pfizer (you know where this is heading). Things start off slow, but Jamie charms his way into the game. While pitching an antidepressant to a GP (Hank Azaria), he meets Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), a quirky young bohemian who suffers from early onset Parkinson’s disease. A relationship develops between the two; purely sexual at first, but gradually evolving into a semi-conventional coupling. When the “little blue pill” Viagra hits the market, it’s boomtime, but Jamie and Maggie’s relationship peaks and plummets.
With lengthy dialogue sequences, a deluge of sex scenes and many moments of light comedy set against a theme of finding happiness/yourself, it’s difficult to say who Love and Other Drugs is meant for. It could be for women who like to nod in agreement, couples who delight in comparing their relationships with onscreen examples or single men who enjoy watching illegal downloads of Elizabethtown and Garden State half-naked in front of their computers. Love and Other Drugs suffers from that all-too-familiar condition which plagues almost every adaptation (it’s based on the book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy); it has too much going on. Even with a running time just short of two hours, its plot elements are not explored sufficiently, and the result is a potentially poignant narrative which spends as much time on relationship turning points as it does on priapism.
Whatever Love and Other Drugs is, it’s still good to see it following the grown-up, serious yet funny mold of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and (500) Days of Summer. It doesn’t quite get there, but a film which falls short of its ambitions is exponentially better than a film which has no ambitions at all. If you want to watch a movie about “feelings” and such, then Love and Other Drugs—with the chemistry between its leads, its exposé of the pharmaceutical industry and the positivity of its message—is your best bet right now.