This film came out on DVD a couple of weeks ago, but due to my inability to view the special features (Blu-Ray has them all once again), I’ll just do this as a straight review. And it is usually the film I would skip on doing a review for, as I tend to shy away from rom-com’s quite a bit, particularly generic Hollywood ones. When I do watch a rom-com, I tend to aim for the ones that have a bit of a twist to them, with a decent story worth noting, as you reflected in my Top 5 Romantic Comedies back in February. So, this is why I felt I had to do a review for Love & Other Drugs, as it’s one of those rom-com’s that I actually enjoyed. And it is quite different, the fact that it’s directed by Edward Zwick, the man behind Historical epics such as Glory, The Last Samurai and action flick Blood Diamond, makes it quite unconventional in terms of creativity and as a career choice for him. But in a way, this is a rom-com very much grounded in reality, as it deals with real problems that many people have to cope with behind closed doors.

Loosely based on the non-fiction novel, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, the film takes place in 1996 (yes, they make films set in the 90’s now) and follows Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie, a self-proclaimed bachelor, who sleeps with many woman, and never calls them back. Whore. After being sacked from his job at an electronics store for sleeping with his boss’ girlfriend, Jamie undertakes a job as a pharmaceutical sales representatives, with mixed results. Whilst trying to get one Doctor to buy his companies drugs, he encounters a patient called Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway), who suffers from young on-set Parkinson’s Disease. Intrigued by her, Jamie manages to score a date, and the two quickly end up having sex in her apartment. But Maggie isn’t just a one-off fling, Jamie can’t seem to get her out of his head, particularly due to the fact that she is very much his equal in terms of her outlook on life and relationships. As the two become more serious, and Jamie begins to excel in his job thanks to the introduction of a certain performance enhancing drug by the name of Viagra, the serious issue of dealing with Maggie’s life controlling disease soon begins to bear down on the blossoming relationship. Jamie must soon make the decision of what really matters in his life, and discover what it means to truly love someone.

The concept of the relationship with the Parkinson’s sufferer could have been handled very poorly in the wrong hands. It takes a lot to make a movie that is still funny and enjoyable that doesn’t ridicule the disease, yet one that also packs the emotional punch needed to highlight the seriousness and sad truth to the lives of those who suffer with Parkinson’s. Zwick deftly handles this. The script is incredibly witty and smart, mixing sharp laughs amongst the many sex scenes (which don’t hold back). Yet when it hits hard, it really hits hard. There are subtle moments which highlight symptoms of the disease, but there is one particular scene where Maggie breaks down, which expresses the strange effect Parkinson’s has on some sufferers. I do have a personal link with the disease, as my Granddad suffered from it, eventually dying in the year 2000. I may have only been 7 years-old when he died, but I do have memories of his shakes, and there being moments where he didn’t seem to be the same person. I guess the emotional parts of this film hit harder for me due to that fact, but it is handled very sensitively, and the fact that these characters are so well-developed, it is highly emotional. I’m not one to cry in films, and I didn’t with this, but these scenes did certainly touch me.

In terms of narrative development, the film unfortunately doesn’t quite match to its emotional content and original concept, and does fall into some of the trappings of the rom-com genre. The sub-plots are mostly there for humour, be it Jamie’s work relationships or the one involving his brother (which is the most annoying), but the actual development of the relationship stays largely unique in its early days, when the two are literally together just for the numerous sex scenes.  It’s in the third act that it falls apart slightly, as it turns to the old cliché of the ‘mad-dash to catch and tell her how you really feel’ moment. It’s a shame that such a generic plot development had to take place in what is largely an emotional and very witty movie. However, there is something which carries the film through, no matter how many genre pratfalls it may succumb to.

That all important element is the chemistry between the two leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. The two are incredibly believable and likeable as a couple, they bounce off one another with ease, creating a couple that you really wish will stay together come the end of the movie. You’re willing them on to see through whatever roadblocks they create for themselves. The two characters show each other both how to live and how to deal with themselves, and nothing ever feels forced between the two of them. The two actors show amazing depth and maturity, along with much of their flesh, to further establish themselves as two of the brightest and most talented young stars in Hollywood today. And in Hathaway’s case, certainly one of the hottest. Some rom-com’s tend to die when the main couple aren’t on-screen together, thankfully this isn’t the case with Love & Other Drugs. The movie largely follows Gyllenhaal, who has always been a charming screen presence, and he has great support from Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria. I’ve already mentioned how I found the brother sub-plot to be too distracting, largely because of Josh Gad’s wannabe-Jonah Hill performance. But the charisma of the two leads more than carries the film.

What quite inspired Edward Zwick to make this movie I don’t know, it certainly is a change of pace and setting from his last movie, the World War Two drama, Defiance, but he certainly can handle more subtle affair. The characters in his movies have always been rather well-defined, be it Tom Cruise’s American soldier finding his true calling and nature in the ranks of the enemy in The Last Samurai, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s mercenary finding a soul in Blood Diamond, and he has certainly brought character sensibility to this piece. It in turn, creates a very mature, sexy rom-com with a lot of heart, which in the end will definitely leave a smile on your face. No need for Prozac.

4/5– The final act disappointingly falls on rom-com clichés, but what comes before it is, largely, a witty, smart, sexy, mature and highly emotional dramedy with two charming performances from Gyllenhaal and Hathaway.

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