Loosely based on Jamie Reidy’s book Hard Sell: The Evolution Of A Viagra Salesman, Love & Other Drugs is a refreshingly grown-up romantic comedy, one with heartfelt emotion and two compelling, likeable performances.
The film centers on a pharmaceutical rep, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal), who falls head over heels for radiant free spirit Maggie (Anne Hathaway). Together the two people who never thought they would fall in love discover that their intense chemistry is more powerful than any drug on the market.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are a match made in heaven, each providing compelling, yet contained performances, laden with sexual chemistry. Gyllenhaal’s Jamie, an arrogant, passive and self-depreciating salesman, and Hathaway’s Maggie, an independent, earthly woman scared of losing her being to the aggressive Parkinson’s disease.
Zwick handles the intimacy between Jamie and Maggie extremely well, nailing the complexity of their developing relationship. The dramatic, heartfelt exchanges are dignified, played with emotion and depth, while the sex scenes are fun and inject life, vigour back into the film, balance the tone, never letting it slip into the implausible or over-sentimental.
The tone may feel equivocal at times, but the serious, life-altering disease Maggie bears is meant to be shown as empowerment, something that people come to live with and something that shouldn’t stop people from ultimate happiness, highlighted particularly well by a scene that occurs at a meeting of people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.
The film, however, does stumble in its conclusion, reverting to one of the common clichés of the genre by tying everything up neatly, renouncing in part the unique feel of the film Zwick strived so hard to establish in the first place.
Love & Other Drugs, despite its faults, is a rom-com that works, mainly due to it’s ambidextrous story, convincing performances, witty script and ever appropriate soundtrack.