3.5 stars (out of five). Rating: R, for nudity, strong sexual content, profanity and drug use
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 11.26.10
Early into Love and Other Drugs, novice pharmaceuticals rep Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) shadows Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria) as a means of currying favor with this potential client.
Dr. Knight has something of a mischievous streak – not to mention a fondness for attractive women – and therefore allows Jamie to attend a routine exam with new patient Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). She doesn’t think anything of Jamie’s presence, assuming an intern/doctor relationship; the situation turns eyebrow-raising when, as the exam concludes, she asks the doctor to take a quick look at one of her breasts.
|Maggie (Anne Hathaway) can't stand Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) at first sight, but|
of course that'll change; how could any woman resist his endearing, aw-shucks
The scene is staged for its erotic potential – Jamie about to enjoy a quick glimpse of forbidden fruit – and we figure, hey, it’s Anne Hathaway; director Edward Zwick will shoot the scene from behind her, preserving the actress’ modesty and allowing us to see Gyllenhaal’s Jake try not to appear lecherous. Plenty of comic potential there.
But no: The camera doesn’t cut to a different angle as Hathaway slips out of her top, and suddenly we become complicit in Jamie’s sneak peek … and the resulting scene, handled with bland insouciance by Hathaway, becomes even more erotic.
This scene is typical of Zwick’s approach in this film, which soon becomes unexpectedly, deliciously earthy and carnal in the manner of a cheerful French sex romp: a tone very few American-made films ever pull off. The film’s three screenwriters – Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz and Zwick, loosely adapting Jamie Reidy’s book, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman (and no doubt that little nugget of information just made your eyebrows shoot up) – understand that young couples in the throes of a new relationship spend a lot of time in bed, and also spend a lot of time OUT of bed, but still in the buff, rejoicing in their shared exposed selves.
Hathaway and Gyllenhaal, bless ’em, are game for anything; as a result, we connect with these characters at a level of intimacy that seems at odds with the film’s often mocking tone.
It’s a deft juggling act, but Zwick pulls it off. Love and Other Drugs veers wildly from one mood to another, ranging from playful sexiness and blatant comedy to increasingly powerful poignance. We watch the story itself blossom from adolescent foolishness to adult maturity, much the way Maggie helps Jamie grow up and become a better person.
Jamie is introduced as the ne’er-do-well member of an otherwise accomplished family, bright but self-destructive, and running a distant second to a dweebish younger brother – the hilarious Josh Gad – who scored a big hit with an Internet start-up. It’s the 1990s, and such things remain possible; the trouble is, Jamie has only one talent: scoring with chicks.