Love and other Drugs is a genre hard to define. It tries to be a romantic comedy, but is more like a relationship focused blockbuster with an intelligent message. Generally I dislike romantic blockbusters – they seem to be unrealistic and assume the audience is dumbed down. Love and other drugs wasn’t and didn’t.
Set across 1996 and 1997, the film reminds us of long lost musical hits(?) such as Two Princes, The Macarena, Praise You, Liz Phair’s awesome Supernova, and oddly from another era, 2006’s brilliant Fidelity by Regina Spektor. I thought he music was lacking in the latter two thirds of the film. The film also reminds us of 90s fashion – Doc Martens and denim dungarees worn with only a bra underneath – the latter, like Two Princes and The Macarena, is best left in the 90s.
The film also highlights the competitive pharmaceuticals sales market. The spruiking of pharmaceutical drugs to doctors by sales reps with little medical training is dangerous.
James Randall, played by the incredibly good looking Jake Gyllenhaal, is a smart underachiever who becomes a salesman for the Pfizer drug company after he loses his retail job in an audio-visual store. He is also very smooth with the ladies – charming and bedding them, usually to make a sale. Through his one time undercover role as a medical intern with Dr Stan Knight (played by Hank Azaria) – aiming to find out what patients want in their medication, he meets witty and intelligent artist, Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway), a 26 year old with early onset Parkinson’s disease. He ogles her breast, she hits him, then he charms her number from the receptionist he’s playing naughty nurses with.
Both commitment phobic, James and Maggie agree to sleep together, just once. Once turns into frequently, but Maggie does not want James to get close because of her illness. She doesn’t want to fall in love and have to let James see her at her most sick, or worse, become a burden on him.
The acting was good. There were funny scenes. Sad scenes. Very moving scenes. A lot of nudity and sex. The film showed some of the realities of living with Parkinson’s disease, in both serious and humorous ways.The film doesn’t trivialise or glamourise disability (well, if you don’t count the good looking lead roles).
Nor does it solely define the character with their disability.
The story reminded me of Lara Irvine’s article on Ramp Up, and also my blog entry about sex. We all want love and we all want to feel needed. I identified with so many parts of this film, and I am sure some of my friends and anyone with a chronic illness or disability would do too. I identified with the desire not to lose the true ‘you’ because of your illness. Wanting the one you love to believe in themselves as much as you believe in them. The cost of medication. Finding others with similar illnesses. The tiring and desperate search for a cure, generally by someone who loves you and is without your illness. The fear of being a burden on someone because of your illness. The fear of being someone’s ‘pity fuck’.
Love and other Drugs is a movie that left me thinking, and a bit teary, after I exited the cinema. And it wasn’t just about how hot Jake Gyllenhaal is.