Love & Other Drugs

a film by Edward Zwick

Haphazard Hollywood director Edward Zwick's latest film, Love & Other Drugs, ostensibly about the relationship between a cocksure pharmaceutical rep and a young woman in the beginning stages of Parkinson's, who tries to keep him at arm's length (or at least at dick's length) for fear of commitment, or as she states in one particularly vulnerable moment, "pity fucking the sick girl", but is also about the greediness of the pharmaceutical industry and their stranglehold on the medical field, allowing false hope to arise in patients and in turn to fester to a boiling point when their promised miracles never come, certainly has its many expected stereotypes and clichés (it is a mainstream Hollywood vehicle after all, and by the guy who gave us the cliché-addled Legends of the Fall and The Last Samurai) but one can just as certainly forgive such flaws and foibles when one is handed two performances as strong as the two we are handed in this film.

Luckily, both Jake Gyllenhaal and, especially Anne Hathaway (giving her finest performance yet in a budding career that seems to be on the critical upswing - as long as she keeps on such daring roles as this or Rachel Getting Married, and stays away from those damned rom-coms), hand us two such performances in this otherwise middlebrow motion picture by the oft-middle brow Zwick (to give proper props, the man did direct the rather triumphant Glory and the erroneously maligned Defiance as well), and I suppose we can forgive the film to a certain point because of them. Unfortunately, as the film inevitably begins to crumble, and eventually completely fall apart in the final half hour (the blatant Oscar-ready speech about "me needing you to need me more than I need you" is the cherry on this imploding act's sundae), even these two intrepid actors and their respectively fine performances, are not enough to keep our forgiving natures going until the credits roll.

Thankfully we have a relatively well-made film up until this point (thanks again to Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, together again after Brokeback Mountain - a completely different kind of relationship there) that shows not only how a relationship works, in a quite surprisingly honest way (until the aforementioned Oscar speech that is) but also how the effects of Parkinson's, physically and emotionally, can bear down on said relationship, also in a surprisingly honest, if not somewhat tepid and Hollywoody, way (one character, when asked about the disease and its effects on a person, claims that it is not a disease so much as a Russian novel). Granted, the inevitable cliché comes on like an avalanche - and it is most certainly quite an unforgivable avalanche indeed - but the film holds up until this crushing point by that oft times brutal honesty flooding back and forth between Gyllenhaal's seemingly self-centered (but ultimately insecure, as is most always the case with such people) drug-trafficking salesman and Hathaway's hurt little girl in a sexually libidinous' woman's body (and one that is literally falling apart before her eyes). In other words, Zwick's film nearly succeeds despite itself. [12/04/10]