Love changes everything. It ruins perfectly sexual affairs and it causes sadness and morbidity…unless that love is requited and cherished. Maggie and Jamie show us what it means to love sincerely, utterly, and with one’s heart and soul. Before their love blossoms into something beautiful, we are treated to sex, lust and promiscuity. Jamie is unemployed. He refuses to attend medical school, hates being nickel-and-dimed as an audio-visual salesman, and wants something more out of life than following the breadcrumbs leading toward the valley of his family’s expectations. His brother Josh (Josh Gad) may be a portly, libidinous, porn-crazed madman, but he is a millionaire madman at that. While Josh is afforded the luxury of marriage and divorce, and can afford a limited lifetime supply of online erotica, Jamie must quickly find a career. At a bizarre, yet familiar family dinner, Josh offers to help his brother find a position with Pfizer as a pharmaceutical sales representative. It is vital to our storyline that we understand Love and Other Drugs takes place in 1996, at the height of Pfizer and the pharmaceutical industry’s massive expansion.
Normally, Jamie succeeds in sales by seducing customers and colleagues. This is his golden ticket to fame and fortune. At the stereo store, he ravished his colleague’s wife in the store room. Once in training at Pfizer, he manages to bed the lead trainer. This secures him a spot after the brainwashing, I mean training, is complete. At the beginning, Jamie is paired with a veteran in the field, Bruce Winston (Oliver Platt). Bruce is great at coaching up rookies. He reminds Jamie after a few initial stonewalls at doctor’s offices that he needs to concentrate on his strengths instead of pitching Pfizer’s products without a lead-in. Jamie’s first maneuver is to charm the skirt off of Cindy (one of my favorites, Judy Greer), who is only too happy to allow him access to the medical samples/supply store room in exchange for a few small favors. The same level of charm is applied across the spectrum, but the director focuses primarily on Dr. Stan Knight’s (Hank Azaria) office. Dr. Knight is often perturbed and un-amiable, but he softens after Jamie offers him a thousand dollar bribe just to shadow him for a day. With the rising cost of malpractice insurance and HMOs muddying payments to doctors, Stan is happy to accept the bribe/gift. This is the beginning of a selfish but fascinating friendship.
Our smooth playboy’s soul is awakened when he follows Dr. Knight into an exam room to meet with a 26-year-old Parkinson’s patient named Maggie. Her medications have been lost and she is having a virtual emergency. Exigent circumstances and a wad of cash convince Stan to help without delay. After introducing himself as an intern, Jamie watches intently as Maggie disrobes to reveal her larger than anticipated left breast. Although Stan diagnoses the lesion below the areola as a spider bite, we can plainly see Jamie is busy conjuring a second opinion in his mind. Shortly thereafter, Jamie leaves and packs his remaining Zoloft, Xanex and Zithromax (azithromycin) (Other Drugs…keep up people!). In the process of packing, Maggie suddenly wallops Jamie with her pocket book. She caught him red-handed drooling over her breast without a medical license. Beaten but not out, Jamie apologizes and asks her to dinner. The nerve on this kid! Naturally, she accepts, and our love story begins in earnest.
The first several dates between Jamie and Maggie are entirely consumed by passionate sex. Shockingly, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway show more nudity and graphic sexual positions than most late night Cinemax soft porn. Their scenes together are blazing hot. If these two do not supply enough suggestiveness to couples in the audience, I question if there is any desire remaining in their relationships. Hathaway’s body is not 80 pounds like Rachel McAdams,’ but she is a lean, big-breasted beauty that is the marriage type; then again, I am a sucker for reddish or curly hair.
Eventually, our playboy of the decade starts to notice he wants more from his playmate than to spank that tukas; he wants a real relationship. Jamie feels comfortable with Maggie. She is a gateway into understanding himself and confronting his inner-demons. Meanwhile, Maggie is reluctant, if not terrified at the prospect of investing herself in another potentially destructive relationship. Being a young woman afflicted with a life-altering disease is enough of a burden without having to feel broken-hearted. Regardless, Jamie has fallen hard and he refuses to be denied.
In the middle of their struggle to accept one another on their own terms, Jamie receives some raucously great news that will propel his career as a pharmaceutical rep into fifth gear. Pfizer is coming out with a new wonder drug to cure male erectile dysfunction. It is called Viagra (please people, this movie takes place in 1996, I already mentioned that) and it makes wood hard (not the kind that grows on trees). Timber! Jamie has no trouble convincing his boss that he is the perfect symbol for the drug and he is licensed to sell it. In one month he sells 1,200 prescriptions and makes a bundle. Naturally, he buys a Porsche to celebrate; who wouldn’t?
Unfortunately, in the middle of their lust and deepening friendship, Maggie has a breakdown and decides she is unwilling to depend on Jamie or to burden someone with caring for her needs in her volatile condition. Hathaway played a free-spirited beauty to perfection for the first half of this film; then, boom, the director flipped a switch, and she began turning into a conflicted, terrified, obdurate victim. This is no easy metamorphosis, but Hathaway proved her mettle and earned my respect. Jamie does whatever it takes to maintain their relationship, but he becomes obsessed with curing Maggie. Jamie is terrified of losing (this fear is brought on at a Parkinson’s Disease convention in Chicago) what he loves in Maggie once she becomes debilitated and helpless. His actions become harsh and insensitive, despite the love and conviction behind them.
Without spoiling the most dramatic portion of this film, I will reveal that I am both satisfied and dissatisfied with the second half of the show. Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have found their Notebook, their Casablanca, and are now part of an instant classic. Love and Other Drugs is the best romance film of 2010. My only complaint is so trivial, it burdens me to mention it. I hate formulaic endings, and offering one to viewers is the one blemish I found in the entire two hours of pure goodness. I feel as though Love and Other Drugs will be an affirmation for many couple’s of their own feelings, passions, and struggles. I offer it my full and unbridled recommendation.
Copyright © 2010 Screen Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
Certain product data © 2010-present Screen Media, Inc. For personal use only. All rights reserved.