Love and Other Drugs
Despite how hard it tried not to be, LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS is a romantic comedy and as such, it follows the romantic comedy outline pretty closely. But the subject matter of the film and the catalysts for the conflict amongst the characters is a little more serious than what we’re used to when it comes to rom-coms and that serious subject matter casts a dark cloud over the film that makes aspects of the film tough to accept. On one hand, it was refreshing to see Hollywood tackle something challenging and somewhat original, but on the other hand, there’s a reason no one has tried it before.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a carefree medical school dropout that makes a living womanizing and selling pharmaceutical supplies. Through an off-putting, strange encounter, he meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) who suffers from a very early onset of Parkinson’s disease. To this point, we have a very standard romantic comedy where two characters have a gap between them and manage to overcome that gap and fall in love. In a typical romantic comedy, there’d be something that would come between them again to separate them, thus leading to a climatic ending where each character overcomes their obstacle to be with the other. LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS has that obstacle, but unfortunately, the obstacle is Maggie’s Parkinson’s disease.
What keeps them apart is Jamie’s struggle to accept her disease (the very thing she was afraid of) and his obsession with trying to get her cured so he wouldn’t have to take care of her. The moment this chain of events kicked off, Maggie became the victim and Jamie became the antagonist, which are two things you don’t want your characters to be in a romantic comedy. When Jamie turned into a jerk and couldn’t love Maggie for who she is, the audience turned on him. I no longer cared about him or their relationship. In fact, I was hoping they wouldn’t get together because I had become too sympathetic to Maggie. Again, that’s something you don’t want in a romantic comedy.
There was also a strange addition in the story where Maggie had a past relationship with Jamie’s current rival. That felt completely out of place and served little to no purpose. It wasn’t explained in any detail and seemed to only be there as a source of conflict within Jamie. But Jamie was such a shallow character for 80% of the film that his being beaten by a more talented rival was insignificant to the overall story. I did enjoy the performances of Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria (despite an overly political monologue from Azaria’s character), who provided most of the laughs in the film.
I respect LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS for what it tried to do and for tackling something as challenging as a love story with one person very sick, but the tone of the film was off considering what we were dealing with. The only chance they had to make this work was to make both characters good, likeable people that the audience could root for and that wasn’t the case. It had some moments that were humorous and sweet, but overall the film fell flat and didn’t realize the seriousness of what it was dealing with.