The new Edward Zwick (“Thirty Something,” “My So-Called Life”) film “Love and Other Drugs” is based on a novel entitled Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy. That, alone, should tell you that you’re in for a polemic on the world of pharmaceutical sales.
It is also a love story about a 26-year-old Parkinson’s patient in 1996 (Anne Hathaway as Maggie Murdoch) who is screwing her way through stage one of the disease. I say “screwing her way through” because one of the things this movie will be most remembered for are the many and numerous sex scenes. They are plentiful. For the most part, they are quite good, although the first scene in Maggie Murdoch’s (Anne Hathaway’s) apartment is, as Entertainment Weekly phrased it “particularly carnal.” (“Naked Truths” by Dave Karger, November 26, 2010).
Anne Hathaway was just announced as the co-host with James Franco of this year’s Academy Awards. I wonder if there will be jokes aimed at her boinking the living bejesus out of co-star Jake Gyllenhaal—lately rumored to be getting it on with the much-younger Taylor Swift (Gyllenhaal will turn 30 on December 19th, while Swift will turn 21 on December 13th).
The first thing I noticed about the film was Jill Clayburgh, playing Jamie Randall’s (Jake Gyllenhaal’s) mother. Clayburgh was voted one of the 25 best actresses in Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly in 1999 and remained a beautiful woman until the day she died at age 66 on November 5th of this year. “Love and Other Drugs” is not her last movie (that distinction goes to the still-in-production “Bridesmaids”) but I remember thinking how great it was to see her onscreen after such a long time. And how sad I feel knowing that she is gone, never to light up a movie screen with her intelligence and her beauty again.
But times have changed. And how!
Now we have the gorgeous Jake Gyllenhaal and the less-gorgeous Anne Hathaway screwing like mink onscreen every chance they get. Because, you see, the heroine is ill (with Parkinson’s disease) and brittle and fragile and extremely cranky and controlling. Hathaway is quoted in the Entertainment Weekly piece mentioned above this way: “So, for me, this role was pretty out-there in terms of the way I usually am in public concerning my body. So, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to be in control. I’m going to do everything properly, disrobe at the last minute, and in between shots get the clothes back on.’ But then I found that every time I put my robe back on, it rubbed all the body makeup off, and that added 20 minutes to filming. As with all things in life, the second you stop making it about you and you make it about everyone else, it just got, dare I say, fun.” I got kind of tired of her cranky, cynical act and wanted to smack her a few times, but I’m sure that’s just me.
Jamie is the bright ne’er-do-well son of a doctor (George Segal) and his wife (Jill Clayburgh) and his overweight, unattractive brother Josh (comparisons to Jonah Hill abound) is a dot.com millionaire…although his wife has just thrown him out of the house, for reasons we never quite understand or learn. Mostly, we don’t understand why someone worth $35 million finds it necessary to impose on his handsome bachelor brother for long periods of time—except that, otherwise, all the opportunities for loutish “Hangover” style humor would be missed. When he moves in with Jamie, Josh (Josh Gad), the unattractive brother, says, “If you could make money f******, you’d be even richer than me.” Probably true.
The smart part of the movie is the part denouncing pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer (which is featured prominently, by name, at all points, so go figure) with lines like, “They’re turning complex medical decisions into commercialism.” Oliver Platt, who plays Jamie’s boss in pharmaceutical sales notes, “They’re even starting to hire strippers.” Platt has decided that the good-looking Jamie is his ticket to ride back home to Chicago, the Promised Land, from Pittsburgh. (“I’ve got an idea that you and your swinging dick might be my ticket to the Big Leagues.”)
The “meet cute” portion of this love story is handled in cynical fashion, as the two meet in a coffee shop and the extremely brittle Ms. Murdoch (Hathaway) says, “This is about finding an hour or two of relief from the pain of being you.” She admits she wants the same thing. So, the two, not unlike Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall,” …who merely kiss to “get it out of the way” in innocent 70’s style…go to Maggie’s apartment and have at it. Watching this sex scene was like watching an episode of “Wild Kingdom.”
Gyllenhaal, when asked about this particular first love scene, admitted that, in love scenes, “I’ve always felt, particularly with women, it’s good to have a dance, like choreography. ‘I’m going to turn you here, then that’s going to happen…We were like, fake having sex and being like, ‘Knock the pot off, knock the pot off.’ I was not focusing on her at all and instead focusing on knocking the f***** pot off for Ed (Zwick, the director).” [It should be noted for the record here that Gyllenhaal played Heath Ledger’s gay lover in “Brokeback Mountain,” where Hathaway was his wife, so he has some experience in love scenes with both genders.]
The pot was definitely knocked off in the carnal kitchen love scene.
When Viagra hits the market in 1996, Jamie begs his boss (Oliver Platt) for the chance to sell it, saying, “Who can sell a dick drug better than me?” He has a point. Jamie takes on his arch-nemesis, Trey Hannigan (Gabriel Macht), an ex-Marine who was once Maggie’s very-married lover. He is always trying to best him at getting key doctors to prescribe Prozac rather than Zoloft. Now, he will beat him with a dick drug. The Trey Hannigan subplot started and then died aborning, with no real resolution as to exactly what happened when, why or where. Just another lost thread or another lost opportunity. There are many threads…too many, really, for one movie to adequately follow.
Another reviewer (Trisha Leigh) warned her readers not to see it with their parents. (Trisha Leigh on www.Poptimal) I went with my daughter (age 23) and I liked the film better than she did, so what does that say about us? Not sure. Pretty sure it means I’m not a prude about hot sex scenes. I know this to be true, because, one summer vacation, my college roommate and I rented every hot sex scene we could think of and watched them all, rating them from “1” to “10.”(Another article, perhaps?)
The sex scenes in this film are superb. The drug rant: likewise timely. The obnoxious Jonah-Hill-like brother: not as well-received. The sentimental love story? I’ll let you decide where you stand, judging some actual lines from the film:
Oliver Platt to Jake Gyllenhaal, on using Jamie Randall’s sales and bedroom prowess to earn his way back to Chicago (“the Big Leagues”): “It takes a talented eye to spot talent in a colossal f***-up such as yourself.”
Jake Gyllenhaal, to Anne Hathaway: “You’ve got to understand that you’re still there…still yourself. And life is beautiful.” (Maybe a little too Pollyanna-ish?)
Anne Hathaway, to Jake Gyllenhaal, discussing her Stage One Parkinson’s disease: “It’s not a disease. It’s a Russian novel.” Later, she tells Jamie, “This is the first time in my life that I’ve never not felt alone. That someone is there.” (Bi-polar mood swings? I think there’s a drug for that.)
Anne Hathaway to Jake Gyllenhaal: “Apparently, you need to know I’m going to get better in order to love me…Nobody wants to be the one who runs away.”
Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway) on the sex tape the two lovers make, when she’s in one of her rare non-brittle, non-cynical moods: “It doesn’t matter if I have 10,000 more moments or just this one, because I have this one.” (OK. Pollyanna rules.)
Anne Hathaway: “I have never known anyone who actually believed I was enough. Until I met you.” (Awwwwww).
Or there’s this line: “Sometimes the thing you most want doesn’t happen. And then you meet one person and your life is changed forever.” (Jack the Ripper comes to mind.)
Now that I’ve given you the treacly stuff (Line: “What is this? An episode of ‘General Hospital’?”), here are the good things about the movie and the bad things about the film:
Sex scenes: good.
Ranting against pharmaceutical companies: good.
Old guy warning Jake that, if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t marry the wife he loves: good.
Younger brother in film: bad. Wrong movie for this.
Logic in many spots and in general: bad. (What does this Maggie person do for a living? All we ever see her do is sit around trying to control scissors so she can do something artistic in her bohemian apartment? Where does she keep coming up with these phenomenal boyfriends? [Please share that information with all the single girls in Pittsburgh/Ohio/Chicago; they want to know.])
Constant bitchiness of the female lead: bad. Maggie has good cause to be bitter, but the line Ms. Hathaway gave about being “in control” in the Entertainment Weekly interview certainly came through in her really cynical, mean girl performance. She is afraid that she will be a burden, so she wants to live in the moment and enjoy all the sex she can for now, because tomorrow is on the horizon and who knows what tomorrow will bring? We get it.
Ms. Hathaway: I may be the only theater-goer in America that does not find Ms Hathaway that appealing physically. The over-large mouth (a la Julia Roberts), the anorexic frame, the big brown eyes. Dare I say that she reminds me of a preying mantis, when apparently every “boob man” in Reviewland has remarked on her complete baring of her breasts (and almost everything else.) (Her breasts are small; it ain’t no big thing, as was muttered in another film with sex scenes.)
Jake Gylenhaal also gives it up and does near-total nudity for his art, but not to the extent of Kevin Bacon in “Wild Things” or Richard Gere in “Breathless.” While it was great admiring his toned body, there were a few bits that the film hedged on and kept covered. Let’s have the Full Monty if we’re going to go to these lengths for this many sex scenes, in the future.
Therefore, the advice about going with your parental unit, while cute and relevant if you’re very young, was unnecessary. There have been films with a lot “hotter” love scenes than this film, (and, if you want a list, I’ll write one up for you.
There just haven’t been many films that had this many love scenes that co-opted the entire film and almost ruined the message for young lovers and pharmaceutical companies.