Jamie (Gyllenhaal) has two great skills: selling and shagging. The former he parlays into a successful career as a drug rep; the latter he tries to use on Maggie (Hathaway), a waitress with Parkinsons disease. But the serial Lothario finds himself drawn
The love is regular and enthusiastically made; the drugs are blue and diamond-shaped. Rom-com this may be, but it’s not for those who like their romances accompanied by sassy gay best friends and changing room montages. Love And Other Drugs stamps itself as a grown-up romantic comedy almost straight away by making it clear that its leads don’t just make love in dusky lighting to some simpering pop ballad; they fuck. Repeatedly and with gusto. No L-shaped sheets. No discreet cutting away to a moonlit skyline. Honestly, it’s nips-a-go-go until well into act two.
But that works. It’s real, and it makes it wholly believable that Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a drug rep fixed on making lots of money and whoopee, and Maggie (Anne Hathaway), the world’s snarkiest waitress, with early-onset Parkinson’s, are two attractive people who might fall into a relationship together by way of the bed, fall inconveniently in love, but possibly fall apart before the closing credits. The she’s-sick-he’s-a-bastard set-up is pure Dying Young, but it never resorts to sickbed glamour. It’s far more interested in two people trying to ignore their physical or emotional disabilities.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are fantastic together, fizzing chemistry all over the shop. He’s puffed up with arrogance, but has the charm to pull it off, and she is becoming the most versatile commercial actress of her time, capable of charming in pretty much any role. It’s surprising to see that the film is directed by Ed Zwick, and not just because the scenery’s nothing spectacular and nobody’s doing a silly accent. Zwick has become a director of epics, but this is about intimacy, nailing the minutiae of a growing relationship, the moments you realise you’re in love, the moments you can’t be bothered and the things you never want to show.
It’s got ambition. Based on Jamie Reidy’s book about the rise (pun only partially intended) of Viagra, it starts to tell that story alongside its central romance as Jamie begins selling the drug and realises all his dreams have come at once (honestly, that one was an accident). That’s a funny side-plot, but ends up tailing off to nowhere. It’s got big narrative goals, but too little time to meet them all.
The film flounders in its final stages. After doing so much to be unusual it reverts to cliché, winding up with a big neat bow that was much more interesting as a tangle.
Well above the standards of your average romantic comedy, its funny, sexy and smart. Its just not smart enough to stick to its guns to the end.