' ' Cinema Romantico: Love And Other Drugs

Monday, December 05, 2011

Love And Other Drugs

"(S)heer exhilaration at lacking an agenda or a subject in any classical dramatic sense. The film is sometimes nothing more than a dance to music. Spielberg never meant anything really. But neither did Fred Astaire." This is what Antonia Quirke once wrote about "Jaws" and it makes me think about Edward Zwick in so much as his films regularly lack (to the extreme) sheer exhilaration because the guy is never lacking an agenda or a subject in the classical sense. His films are always more than a dance to music. Edward Zwick's never meant anything really but, sweet mercy, does he want to mean something.


This brings us to his latest feature film, 2010'S "Love And Other Drugs", set in that carefree era of 1996 when B.C. was in the W.H. and the economy was booming like The Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" which pops up at the film's outset to cue us to the time & place except, uh, Ed, "Two Princes" was a hit three years earlier. In '93. Perhaps a more appropriate choice would have been "Tha Crossroads" by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Although maybe not. That song was dedicated to the memory of Eazy E who died from complications of AIDS and "Love And Other Drugs" is partially about Jake Gyllenhaal's easygoing, directionless, I-wanna-sex-everyone-up Jamie Randall who gets fired from his job as an electronics salesman for sleeping with the boss's daughter before moving on to becoming a sales rep for drug giant Pfizer who in 1998 begins marketing a certain something called Viagra.

For the first hour Gyllenhaal displays an energy and an old world charm that suggests a dot com Cary Grant (?) and when he links up with his leading lady, Anne Hathaway, by posing as an intern alongside Hank Azaria's doctor, to whom he's desperately trying to sell some Zoloft, and catches a glimpse of Ms. Hathway, uh, sans upper clothing before crossing ethical boundaries even further when he scams her phone number off the doctor's scatter brained assistant, the film excels as an updated screwball romance. Jake & Anne are not quite James & Mila but they are pretty close, steadfastly adhering to an arrangement of Not Quite Friend With Benefits. Truly. She calls him a "shithead" and he calls himself a "shithead" and so they just hook up over and over and the proceedings brim with the energy of the not overly-important. He'll come to understand the true Meaning Of Life and she will learn to Feel and all will end well and everyone will be satisfied. It's kind of, well, a dance to music.

Ah, but this is the Zwickster. And every dance is a benefit for some sort of cause. In this case, the cause is Parkinson's Disease. Which Hathaway's Maggie has, and so the movie will morph from "Palm Beach Story" into "Autumn In New York." This review is not meant to belittle Parkinson's. Not at all. A character at one point says of it: "It's not a disease, it's a Russian Novel." No, no, no! It is a disease! An awful one! And the movie insults it by making it something the movie only deals with when the characters are prepared to deal with it. It is treated merely as an emotional hurdle Jamie must across en route to becoming a better man. This isn't an Issue Movie. This is a farce. This is saccharine whimsy posing as an Issue Movie. 

If there is a sequel don't be surprised if Jamie finds a cure.

9 comments:

dtmmr said...

The film is very messy and can be very obvious but the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway is what saved this film for me. Good review.

flixchatter.net said...

Gyllenhaal as the dot com Cary Grant??! Eh, I think Grant would be offended, ahah. I hear some people saying George Clooney is today's Gregory Peck and I scoff that very idea! He can't hold a candle to such a legend, not even close.

Nick Prigge said...

dtmmr: They did have good chemistry and that was the best part of the film. I just wish this movie could have stuck to the tone it set early on.

Ruth: Agreed. There will never be another Cary Grant or Gregory Peck. I actually just watched a Cary Grant classic I'd never seen - holiday related - for my forthcoming Friday post.

Vancetastic said...

This movie is a mess, pure and simple.

My favorite example of its messiness is the big scene where Jake and Anne break up, and it's because of her disease, and everyone's sad, but that's real life. Then the next scene is of Jake doing ecstasy and trying to have sex with two girls at once and getting a permanent erection for which he needs to seek medical treatment. Wow, that's a comic set piece that should really not have come that late in the movie.

Nick Prigge said...

Yes. Yes, it is. If Zwick had stayed with the tone he started with then that scene works (maybe). But he wants it to be funny and then serious and sappy and then funny again and...oh, Lord help us.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This movie is sort of bizarre, and I shall admit that I have been using that word a bit too often as of late, but whatever. It starts of popping, a bit annoying but always certain of what it wants to achieve and then gets better when they meet despite that annoying meet-cute and the two really are impossibly charming together. And, then it hits the 60/70 minute mark and gets ridiculous, and I start getting annoyed minute by minute. I shall always appreciate it for making me realise that I was wrong and Anne Hathaway IS charming.

Nick Prigge said...

Yeah, when it hits that 60 minute mark it's just.....game over.

alleyesonscreen said...

I thought this movie was OK, but nothing more than that. Hathaway gave a decent performance, but I agree with your thoughts--they didn't start treating her life as problem and disease-filled until it was necessary that they do so. The performances outdo the story or the movie as a whole, but even then, I'm still not surprised there were no nominations from this film.

Nick Prigge said...

Yeah, if they could have honed in on the performances and realized what was making them good and shied away from the "twist" later it could have been better. Alas.