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Love and Other Drugs

dir: Edward Zwick
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It tries, oh it tries. Yes, I know it’s an old flick. I feel the obligation to review it all the same.

Why? Well, it’s not very clear to me either, but maybe I’ll stumble over a few reasons as we go along.

Love and Other Drugs sets itself firmly in the 1990s by opening to a montage set to the rocking tones of Two Princes, that fucking wretched song by no-hit-wonders The Spin Doctors. That song alone already put me in a bad mood as the flick began.

This is, somewhat perversely, based on someone’s actual life and experiences. Jaime Reidy, an actual human, apparently, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and experienced many of the experiences such an individual has to have in order to need a yuppie redemption story to be made about them.

Human history, for those either working in the drug industry, who suffer from erectile dysfunction or who are trying to have sex with someone with erectile dysfunction, is divided sharply into BV and AV: Before Viagra and After Viagra. This flick follows suit, because clearly nothing in human history has ever been as important as that single invention.

Yeah, Fuck You, Galileo, Edison, Einstein, Tesla, Newton, Curie, Franklin, Wilkins, Watson, Crick and Hawking! What have any of you achieved compared to the magnificence of a four-hour erection? Your collective discoveries amount to Nothing. Less than Nothing!

You’d think a flick focussed on the somewhat unethical practice of trying to bribe doctors into prescribing your company’s drugs even if their patients don’t really need them or want them, would be scathing in its ripping the shit out of them for doing so. But this flick isn’t trying to piss off drug giants like Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline or any of the other billion-dollar behemoths. It’s just, like, bringing it up, for, like, shits and giggles.

This flick has no intention of demonising those companies. The closest it comes is by implying the big pharmaceutical companies in the US take many, many steps to keep patents and prices sky high, so much so that poor, trembling old folks need to get on the bus and travel to Canada to get the drugs they desperately need in order to survive a few more months of being nonagenarians. But the blame there could just as easily glide off and be laid at the feet of the government instead.

The drug reps, exemplified by Jake Gyllenhaal’s despicable character Jamie, but embodied by his chief rival Trey Hannigan (Gabriel Macht), are shown as being smug, insincere pieces of shit, but who are doing what they’re doing only because being paid large bonuses is wonderful, not because they’re actively evil. It’s not Jamie’s fault that the system is the way it is. He’s always been a manipulative, insincere piece of shit. The drug companies are just paying him to play to his strengths. He just wants to make some money, and, I’m not sure: get back at his family, perhaps. Apart from being awfully shallow, he’s exceptionally charming.

Just so that we understand that he’s not the film’s villain, they lump us with an awful actor (Josh Gad) playing his awful brother, so that the main character doesn’t look so repugnant. It forces us to waste time we could otherwise spend ogling the naked bodies of the main characters yelling at the screen to make that horrible character go away.

They put in these painful, unfunny, borderline retarded characters as an almost contractual obligation into flicks like this, but sometimes I just wonder what the thought process is in including them. They’re often worthless, as in bringing nothing of worth to the table, and this shitty character and actor is a prime example of that. Often they’re just an annoying sidekick, but often enough they force the flick to grind to a halt and kill whatever momentum might have been building. Just stop it, Hollywood, we don’t need them, and, in these times of austerity, you’d be saving time and money by omitting the standard disgusting/borderline retarded former friend/brother character.

You can thank me later. The other main leg of this wobbly stool is Anne Hathaway. No, not Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, but the actress Anne Hathaway who’s still very much alive. Goodness gracious is she alive. Very healthy and alive, and willing to show it continuously. She spends a lot of time naked in this flick, showing off what the gods in their infinite wisdom granted her and us, through her decision to proudly put herself on display.

On this topic I have no complaints. Of any of the elements of the flick I could complain about, and there are a lot, the nudity is not one of them. Hell, I’m an equal opportunity reprobate; there’s nothing wrong with any of the acres of flesh Gyllenhaal or Hathaway put on display for our delectation. They’re attractive people in the bloom of youth, so good luck to them.

They have good moments together, and they have that indefinable quality working off each other often referred to as ‘chemistry’.

It can’t, however, save this goddamn flick from flustered mediocrity, in my anything but humble opinion. Their individual acting, at best reaches the level of tolerable, but quite often, especially Hathaway’s character of Maggie, the performances reek, fucking reek, of shmucky, lazy acting.

Maggie’s main problem isn’t the Parkinson’s she’s apparently afflicted with; it’s that she’s a irritating cow who overacts in almost every scene. No-one complains of overacting in sex scenes, and they’re nice and funny towards the beginning. But the more the flick dragged on, the less I was able to tolerate the irritating affectations and strange behaviour both of these beautiful idiots indulge in, in order to move the banal plot along.

Sure, sure, having early onset Parkinson’s is terrible, would be terrible for anyone at any age, but I never for a second believed this character actually suffered from this debilitating condition. And without it she’s just less than being a two-dimensional character. With it, well, I’m sure she thought that Oscar was hers. Sure, her passion in those simulated sex scenes should have been rewarded, but she’s pretty obnoxious otherwise, with the merest window-dressing of affectations that are meant to make her a ‘real’ person (wow, she’s an artist, and she works in a coffee shop and… well, that’s it). They really go out of their way to ensure no-one feels anything less than turned on by the sight of a woman with a disease that’s totally going to fuck up her ability to wear thigh-high boots and corsets, probably, which is the real tragedy.

They spend so much time labouring the point as to what Jamie is trying to do (in hassling a particular doctor into prescribing his drugs and not his rivals) that they never explain how the stupid stuff Jamie does to achieve these goals (steal and dump his rivals samples in the doctor’s office, replacing them with his own, or by sleeping with the doctor’s receptionist), but they never explain how any of these amateurish actions ends up furthering his goals, or the drug company’s goals at all. But we’re watching this stuff for what feels like months and months of screen-time.

It becomes an empty and more than moot point after Viagra is released onto the market, and everyone’s talking about it and everyone’s using is and everyone’s prescribing it. You could almost say the drug sells itself. Which makes you wonder how great a salesman / arch manipulator he had to be in order to sell what everyone wanted anyway. It’s like complimenting someone for being the best seller of cocaine.

About the only moment of genuine pathos in the whole movie is when Jamie bumps into a guy (Peter Friedman) at a Parkinson’s sufferers event who tries to give Jamie an honest glimpse into what life could be like for him over the next twenty years. It’s so completely at odds with the rest of the tone and the content of the flick that it can’t help but make other scenes look weaker by comparison.

It also makes it painfully obvious that the people involved are going to great lengths to avoid the painful and obvious ending this story would have in the hands of anyone intending to make a credible and genuine flick. A flick like this could have had a satisfying ending; it could have had a dramatically compelling or meaningful ending, but it certainly doesn’t. It absolutely pussies out, and not for a second do I believe that these characters loved each other enough for this ending happy ending bullshit to work.

The film seemed to be building up to some kind of revelation or condemnation of the unholy nexus between the drug companies and the medical profession, but then that all peters out like an erection unenhanced by the magic of Pfizer, because a break up is contrived in order to have some scene of running at the end in order to get the love birds back together. The split is contrived, the resolution is even more contrived, but if you bought their awful relationship in the first place, it’ll probably bring tears to your sentimental eyes.

It didn’t work on me. Too many scenes rang false, and were actively embarrassing, and too much crap seemed to be begging and mugging for laughs that could not come, no matter how hard they tried to pitch or I tried to catch. I don’t really see this as a missed opportunity, because I really don’t need a Hollywood film to preach to me accurately and cogently about the evils of Big Pharma. There are plenty of articles, documentaries and such that nicely rip the shit through those ghouls and vultures.

Few laughs, few boobs and buttocks here and there, and the pale, pale skin of Anne Hathaway, and little else to remember.

And another thing: Were the 1990s really as despicable an era as depicted here? As in, the same as the 80s, only with slightly better hairstyles?

5 ways this probably doesn’t even deserve a 5, were it not for Anne Hathaway’s, um, contributions out of 10

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“You are not a good person just because you pity fucked a sick girl.” – talk about being taken for granted – Love and Other Drugs.

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