Wednesday, February 29, 2012

3 short paragraphs: Love and Other Drugs

2011, Edward Zwick -- Netflix

I like a good chick flick, or a good romantic comedy.  No they're not the same thing.  Chick flicks tend to be overly sentimental and are conceived and marketed with a female audience solely in mind.  Romantic comedies are just that, romantic and comedic.  Where the chick flick tends to be marked with a level of fantasy and unreality, the romantic comedy tries to stay grounded in reality, if not always logic or emotions.  Love and Other Drugs is largely a romantic comedy with a dash of chick flick, and it makes for an interesting, if not altogether successful, concoction.

Set in late-1990s Pittsburgh, Jake Gyllenhaal is a hyper-sexual quasi-loser who lands in a career as a pharmaceutical salesman for (extreme product placement) Phizer.  During his pitching process at doctors offices he has the antithesis of the meet-cute with Anne Hathaway, here playing an artist coping with the onset of Parkinson's disease.  After a relentless chase the two hook up, but it's Hathaway who maintains her cool, keeps her distance, and Gyllenhaal is put on the chase.  Cue frequent nudity, oddly tasteful and never leering.  Hathaway has been burned in the past, while Gyllenhaal has never opened up, and as the two start spending actual quality time together, they form a bond, one that's threatened by the usual tropes of miscommunication, but mostly stemming from Hathaway's concerns about her own future, sparing herself the inevitable heartbreak.

While the film follows many of the conventions of the romcom, complete with the big break-up and the inevitable reunion (preceded by the "race against time" sequence, which here wasn't any sort of race at all), it still fleshes its characters and their motivations out in a more thorough manner.  There's not a lot of ancillary characters gumming up the works here, though somehow the film is still overlong at 112 minutes.  Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, reuniting on screen for a second time (last time Hathaway played Gyllenhaals beard in Brokeback Mountain), have a tremendous amount of chemistry.  Their passion is as believable as their warmth and compassion for one another.  Hathaway sells the onset of the disease mostly with subtlety, while Gyllenhaal's coming-of-age story progresses in obvious, but satisfying ways.  It's not perfect, and the Phizer plugs get egregious, but otherwise the story pulls together well.  It's a nice time.

(note: in choosing the poster image, I was amazed to discover that they really only went with one poster design for all the marketing of this film... kind of shocking actually)