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Love & Other Drugs Early Reviews: "Shockingly Conventional," "Addictive," "Verbal Tartness"

by Anne Thompson
October 26, 2010 5:45 AM
8 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Last night I sat in a Fox screening room packed with critics to see Edward Zwick's Love & Other Drugs. Writer-director Zwick has done what I have long wanted him to do--get into the James L. Brooks/Nancy Meyers smart comedy mode--as he did with partner Marshall Herskovitz (who adapted Jamie Reidy's book Hard Sell with Zwick and Charles Randolph) for so many great TV series, from 30 Something to Relativity. While previous Zwick efforts such as Defiance, Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai have tended toward high-minded commercial dramas packed with action, Love & Other Drugs is a Jake Gyllenhaal-Anne Hathaway romantic comedy with dramatic overtones--and plenty of artfully constructed sex and nudity.

The movie is very commercial and should please young audiences more than critics, which would seem essential to any serious Oscar hopeful (see early trade reviews below). Fox is harboring award season hopes. Early buzz has surrounded Hathaway's performance as a Parkinson's patient in love with Viagra-pushing Pharma salesman and ardent womanizer Gyllenhaal. I'd give him even more credit for what works in this enjoyably shallow movie: lively banter, fearless intimacy, charm, comedic timing and heartfelt sincerity.

The film opens wide on November 24 after its November 4 premiere at AFI Fest 2010.

The movie "plays at times like a patient who has gone off his meds," writes THR's Kirk Honeycutt. Ripe with "unusually bold sex scenes," and with "ADD like you wouldn't believe," the film eventually becomes a "shockingly conventional" romance:

"Zwick's movie never descends into a disease-of-the-week melodrama, but Jamie's search for a cure is more about his fear of the future for himself, not his lover…Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are terrific as two sarcastic, sexually hungry young people eager to hop into bed, or go up against the nearest wall for a knee-trembler…In the end, this is a smart movie that could have been smarter…the energy of the cast and a dive into an unfamiliar world make the movie rather addictive."

Variety's Justin Chang writes that the film is "snappy, saucy and, like any overzealous product-pusher, rather too eager to please" and "a jagged little pill that, in the end, goes down too smoothly":

"If one can get past the calculation inherent in the drug-pushing-boy-meets-disease-stricken-girl setup, Love & Other Drugs clicks largely because its actors do. Their ribald pillow talk lends the film a verbal tartness that's complemented visually by the abundant nudity…Zwick's unflattering snapshot of the venality of the medical establishment is fascinating, if fanciful (one hopes). But it also raises expectations of seriousness, or at least deeper satirical intent, that fizzle out as the film earnestly toes the romantic-comedy line.

That the film's treatment of Parkinson's disease feels as respectful as it does is a credit to Hathaway's sensitive, understated rendering of her character's symptoms, which appear to manifest themselves only when most convenient for the narrative. Crucially, the actress makes Maggie a vivacious presence, the sheer force of her spirit serving as a rebuke to her physical setbacks and countering the film's generally insulting view of women (who fall into three basic categories here: bimbos, opportunists and Parkinson's patients)."

Todd McCarthy (in hislast review for indieWIRE before moving on to THR) writes:

After hiding them for years while turning out more grandiose historical and action films, director Ed Zwick’s television roots show up vividly in “Love & Other Drugs,” an enormously contrived and cloying romantic drama without a moment of believable reality to it. The appealing stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway try hard, real hard, to inject some credibility into the sexually charged relationship between a hotshot drug salesman and a heavily guarded young woman with early stage Parkinson’s disease, and the fact that they appear naked in many scenes will pique curiosity among some. But Zwick’s shtick keeps getting in the way, to the point that the film feels as much like a strained sitcom as it does a failed poignant love story.

[Sophia Savage contributed to this report.]

8 Comments

  • rapidtexter | November 21, 2010 7:33 AMReply

    Perhaps had the Studio promoted more than the sex and the Press asked questions above the neckline rather than be so infatuated with the nakedness of Anne and Jake, then the movie goers would genuinely seek out this movie to watch Anne carefully portray a Young Onset Parkinson's character. The words I have heard to describe the movie from those afflicted with the disease are, "Excellent." "Hard." "Overwhelming." Having Young Onset Parkinson's Disease myself, I am intrigued by any possibility of gaining awareness, education and opportunities to put a face on this disease other than the one very famous one because there are so many of us. However, getting people to look past the nakedness to the most revealing of scenes that deal with two young people facing the fear of losing those inhibitions that fuel their desires is a hard sell, especially when reporters and Morning Show Hosts alike can think of 30 different questions to ask about what it's like to do love scenes and be nude on the set but none thus far have asked more than two questions about portraying a person with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease. They are not interested in that. Therefore, their view is one dimensional. Their reviews are one dimensional. And, they are safe just sticking to what they know or think they know. God forbid they ask any hard questions that might make someone view the film very differently without the blinders. I would love to ask Anne, Jake and Edward some questions about the movie that they have not answered a thousand times already. There is so much more that could be covered about this movie other than what was not covered up in the movie.

  • Greg | November 19, 2010 2:47 AMReply

    No offense, but how can anyone really talk Oscar unless people and critics have seen the movie? From what I see of the early reviews by the critics, it's getting mixed reviews, but usually a movie that is pushed by a big studio ends up getting good reviews, even if it's just mediocre.

  • Susie | November 8, 2010 11:44 AMReply

    Why can't I find out about the music in this film? I have been searching for an hour. The music on the trailer on TV is specifically whom I want to know.

  • Abby | October 27, 2010 11:42 AMReply

    Looks like the only thing helping this movie is the performances, not the script.

  • Sergio | October 27, 2010 2:11 AMReply

    I have to confess I was on my way to a screening of this yesterday and at the last minute just before I got to the theater I turned around. I just couldn't bring myself to see it. I have NO interest whatsoever. It looks shallow, boring and so totally like the ultimate chick flick (as opposed to a "women's" film). I know I would have been sitting there checking my watch waiting for it to be over.

    And oh yeah Jake Gyllenhall is it in. I've had enough of him after Prince of Persia

  • mary | October 26, 2010 10:02 AMReply

    It is no surprise that "Love & Other Drugs" received so-so critical reaction.

    In US, upscale sexual films with a lot of nude scenes tend to polarize critics. Even "The Reader" received so-so critical reaction (despite "The Reader" still received a lot of Oscar nominations). I suspect that many critics love “Black Swan” is partly because “Black Swan” is an upscale sexual film without any nude scene.

    That said, if "Love & Other Drugs" do well at box office, I suspect that major studios will try to make more upscale sexual films with nude scenes. ("Chloe" also did OK in limited release, despite of many terrible reviews the films received; and now more indie companies are trying to develop upscale sexual films)

  • Joan | October 26, 2010 9:37 AMReply

    This movie is not going to do well at the box office. The screening I went to was very meh, there wasn't even any applause after the movie and people cheered wildly at the end of the very mediocre Conviction. The old ladies thought the nudity was gratuitious and unnecessary. The dialogue is trite and it doesn't mix the dramatic and comedic elements well at all. It strives to be like Jerry Maguire or Up In the Air, but is too generic and poorly executed to be as good as either.

    This film shouldn't even make more than Easy A, and that movie will be lucky to even reach $60 million.

  • Emmanuel Salazar | October 26, 2010 9:18 AMReply

    Seems like a rarity in Hollywood to release a project that at least strives to achieve some level of satiric and artful skill while maintaining its more commercial sensibilities, “Love and Other Drugs” might do a better than workmanlike job of toeing the line of cinematic creativity and a strong box office performance. Here’s to it meeting expectations.
    Emmanuel S.

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