January 18, 2011


There are two reasons Ed Zwick’s comedy/drama works as well as it does, and they may not be the reasons you’re thinking of. It works purely because of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway; they are both charming and charismatic performers and have great chemistry together (the three “chs” of a successful onscreen couple). It's because of them and their connection that helps you understand why these two people fall in love.

Gyllenhaal is intelligent, but aimless, lothario Jamie who jumps from job to job and bed to bed. The majority of the first act is taken up with him, until he takes a job as a pharmaceutical rep and happens upon Hathaway’s whip-smart, Parkinson afflicted artist Maggie. They fall into bed (or, more accurately, Maggie's kitchen-floor) and then, as you could probably guess, love.

I can't help but feel a little sorry for Gyllenhaal. He's a fine actor, one of the best young actors around (and is effortlessly great in this), but when he's not in absolute shit like Prince of Persia, he's being outshone by his co-stars: Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain and here by Anne Hathaway. Hathaway really makes the most of the role, without overplaying it or the disease that so defines her life. This is a real, honest performance from a hard-working young actress: not something you generally find in a studio rom-com these days. And yes, she does get naked. A lot. There is plenty of Hathaway topless (and Gyllenhaal's arse) in the early, frenzied stages of their relationship but this is merely in service to the honesty of her character and the relationship. There are no L-shaped bedsheets here and it's not showy nudity (see Halle Berry in Swordfish. Or, rather, don't). It's downright cheesy of me to say, but over the course of the film they both become more emotionally naked than they do physically.

This central relationship, from it's early stages through to the second act and then to it's destruction as Maggie's Parkinsons takes its toll, feels unnaturally real. It's a shame that Zwick didn't succeed as well with the rest of the film. Proceedings take a noticeable dip about midway through, and while they recover, the end doesn't match up to the firecracker of a start. Zwick starts to rely on cliche too much (even including a last minute dash!) - thankfully it's not enough to undo the previous good work. The character of Jake's younger brother Josh (Josh Gad) is somewhat unbalancing: the character feels like it was added as there has to be a gross-out best friend/brother character in romantic comedies these days. Thankfully we also have Oliver Platt (as Jake's pharmaceutical rep mentor) and Hank Azaria (the doctor Jakes gets in good with).

Love & Other Drugs is very, very good. It's not a great film, but you won't be disappointed by the lead performances.

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