“Pride and Prejudice with Prozac” – Tara Brady reviews Love and Other Drugs,
Sexy stars and a whip-smart script make this the best romcom of the year, writes Tara Brady
LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Judy Greer, Gabriel Macht, Hank Azaria
15A cert, gen release, 112 min IT’S BEEN A long time (24 years) since About Last Night, director Ed Zwick’s last foray into the cutesy-pie genres. Since then the dutiful cinema punter has lost many hours, nay days, watching the director’s patented prestige vacuity: empires crumbled in the time it took for The Siege, The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall to make it to the end credits. Zwick’s other works, meanwhile (Glory, Courage Under Fire) are the wrong side of worthy, if not the wrong side of three hours.
Who, therefore, would have predicted that the director’s new film would turn out to be the best romantic comedy of the season? Slotting into the spot occupied by Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married last year, Love and Other Drugs shrinks away from the grandiloquence of Zwick’s recent Defiance and Blood Diamond toward something more humanly proportioned.
On the surface, Love and Other Drugs belongs to a subgenre that has long been derided by critics and wags as the MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl) movie. You know the sort: she’s Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, Natalie Portman in Garden State, Zooey Deschanel in everything.
Here she’s Anne Hathaway, a ball-breaking, pot-smoking loft-dwelling artist and an object of fascination for a rising big-pharma sales star, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Their eyes meet. She slaps him in the gob. He gives her some lip. You can guess the rest.
Agreeably augmenting the twosome’s MPDG romance is a whip-smart script and a barbed commentary on US healthcare and bad medicines. (The film is loosely based on Jamie Reidy’s non-fiction book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.)
As our hero flogs elixirs to the worried well and bribes his way past the medical profession, his feisty girlfriend battles early-onset Parkinson’s and buses old folks up to Canada to avail of that country’s cheaper prescriptions. Between them they cover most of the material in Michael Moore’s Sicko while making you believe you’re watching a superior Jerry Maguire.
It sounds improbable, but it works. Fact-to-feature films usually turn out top-heavy ( Thank You for Smoking) or sink under the weight of their material ( Fast Food Nation).
Love and Other Drugs is a proper, classy two-step, a sort of Pride & Prejudice with Prozac and 30 minutes of sex. Hathaway, who spits out the defensive wit of Juno at Rosalind Russell speeds, walks away with the picture.
Photogenic: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs