It’s not that all the sex in “Love and Other Drugs” is disgusting, or demeans women, or is extraneous to the point of tediousness. But for a romantic drama that easily could have garnered a PG-13 rating instead of an R if some of Anne Hathaway’s body was left on the cutting-room floor, “Love and Other Drugs” is a little confusing. If the idea is that women would see this movie for its touching message about love persevering against all odds, then why all the chests? And why all the bottoms?
Alas, it’s not clear why “Love and Other Drugs” relies so much on the nudity of Hathaway and other women to make its point about needing someone. But for older teenagers whose parents are comfortable with them seeing movie sex – and for adults, too – the film effectively provides a tale similar to “A Walk to Remember” or “Autumn in New York,” with a female heroine suffering from a crippling disease and pushing away a man trying to love her. Those films, however, were imbibed with a romanticism bordering on treacle; one of the biggest benefits of “Love and Other Drugs” is its ability to take itself a little less seriously.
While subtly discussing the evils of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, “Love and Other Drugs” also delivers laughs from supporting characters alternately obsessed with sex and competition – and Viagra. It’s the mid-‘90s in the film, so the Internet and that little blue pill are everything anyone thinks about – and director Edward Zwick, who has previously helmed action-dramas like “The Last Sramurai,” “Blood Diamond” and “Defiance,” smartly milks those topics for laughs.
Ultimately, though, it’s Hathaway and fellow lead Jake Gyllenhaal who carry the film on their beautifully sculpted shoulders. The film begins by introducing us to Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal), an irresistibly charming salesman who excels at his job at an electronics company but gets fired because he’s having sex with his boss’s girlfriend (at work, no less). A medical-school dropout from a family of doctors, Jamie banks on his good looks to woo an endless number of women – “If you could make money [sleeping with women], you’d be even richer than me,” says his younger brother Josh, played by Josh Gad. And after Jamie stumbles into a job as a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer, he uses that same skill with the opposite sex to get his product – Zoloft – into doctors’ offices in the Ohio River Valley.
But his sleeping-with-secretaries routine gets old quick when Jamie meets Maggie Murdoch (Hathaway), a 26-year-old with early onset Parkinson’s disease. After incurring her wrath by ogling her breasts in Dr. Knight’s (Hank Azaria) office, the two embark on a no-strings-attached sexual relationship that inevitably develops into something more when Jamie realizes his feelings for her have deepened. The numerous obstacles in their way, however – from Maggie’s own refusal to be in a committed relationship to her worsening medical condition to her previous fling with Trey Hannigan (Gabriel Macht), a pharmaceutical rep for another company whom Jamie considers his biggest competition in the area – certainly don’t make things easy.
The love-is-hard message is one romantic comedies and dramas have reiterated time and time again, so “Love and Other Drugs” gets a little expected when the rocky patch hits in Jamie’s and Maggie’s relationship. But the film is mollified a bit by some real insights into the medical community, from when Maggie visits a support group for others with Parkinson’s disease and listens to their life stories or when Jamie starts selling prescriptions to Viagra by the hundreds, only to realize (from painful firsthand experience) that the pill may not be as magical as promised.
But while the film delivers a reassuring message about the power of companionship, there’s a lot of sex here – like, a lot. Hathaway gets naked, Gyllenhaal gets naked and random women Jamie’s character sleeps with get naked, meaning that nearly every other scene is one including sex or about sex. There’s also lots of cursing, some masturbation and an implied threesome, as well as the heavy emotional scenes centered on Parkinson’s disease and its effects. Younger teens certainly shouldn’t see this, but for seniors in high school who may be more mature when it comes to sexual issues, the film generally handles those issues gracefully.
After all, most of “Love and Other Drugs” is focused on how Gyllenhaal could sell anything to anyone. With his and Hathaway’s chemistry, that part of the film is certainly believable.
Love and Other Drugs is rated R.