Monday, December 6, 2010

Quick Look: LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS

Love and Other Drugs is as bad as it is ambitious. Here’s a sexy romance, a goofy comedy, and a disease-of-the-week tearjerker with aspirations of being a semi-satirical commentary on pharmaceutical companies. It’s basically a duller Up in the Air with an extra layer of pretensions ladled on top and it comes out looking too cluttered for its own good. The various competing ideas cancel each other out. The script, from director Edward Zwick and co-writers Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz, follows Jake Gyllenhaal as a young, wide-eyed pharmaceutical representative and ladies’ man. In the course of his travels, he meets Anne Hathaway, and the two fall into a relationship fairly quickly. Hathaway, despite a severely underwritten role, acts circles around Gyllenhaal. Though the film is preoccupied with his job and family life, we barely see what she hopes to do with her artistic talents, how she’s living with her early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and why she can afford to pay for her medical care in rolls of big bills. These elements are brought up and dropped at the whims of the plot. She’s a moody cipher, meant to bring love and drama into the life of a charming-but-cold yuppie. It’s a shame. Hathaway does so much with so little that it would have been nice to see her in a role that respected her talents. The film is more or less dead when she’s off the screen, little more than a collection of moments that engendered little more than eye rolling from me. I particularly loathed a subplot involving Gyllenhaal’s sloppy brother (Josh Gad) that’s so miscalculated that it seems to have stumbled in out of an even worse film. Also disappointing are the cruelly underused talents of Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria who could have turned their small roles into gems of character acting if given just a little more screen time. Edward Zwick, usually at work leaving me unmoved with big somber epics like Glory and Blood Diamond, finds little of visual interest in the film, carries along the blandly sloppy mess with just enough skill to make me wish it were better. When, in the span of a few scenes, you’re careening from a serious look at the ramifications of Parkinson’s into overextended gags about Viagra side effects, you know the film is simply adrift beyond repair.

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