Much of the publicity surrounding Love and Other Drugs has inevitably focused upon the nudity displayed by its two lead actors, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal has defended the nudity, explaining that it brings an element of realism to both the film and the central featured relationship. Certainly the sex steers away from the typical soft-focus intercourse; Hathaway and Gyllenhaal’s characters simply ‘fuck’. Unfortunately this is where any attempt at realism ends, with the film ultimately resolving in the same way as any other heavy-handed clichéd rom-com.
Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, an arrogant successful salesman, who after sleeping with his boss’s girlfriend takes up a job as a pharmaceutical representative. Whilst attempting to extol the virtues of the latest wonder drug to a well-known doctor, Randall meets Parkinson’s sufferer Maggie Murdoch (Hathaway). Maggie’s sardonic demeanour and no-strings attached attitude towards sex perfectly complements Jamie’s own ethos towards life.
Aside from the inevitability of the relationship, the film’s central conceit is entirely uninspired. There is very little attempt at character development: Maggie is apparently ‘artistic’, but the only real evidence of this is a few photographs she cuts out, whilst Jamie’s egotism supposedly belies hidden depths of feeling.
The film’s opening, focussing on Jamie, tells us all we need to know about his character; he’s a charmer, who has no qualms when it comes to indulging in casual sex, regardless of the relationship status of said sexual partner. Maggie, in her damaged state, is clearly his chance at redemption; apparently the love of a good woman can change even the shallowest, seemingly callous man. For evidence of his callousness see the way he casts the medical receptionist aside in favour for Maggie, never apologising nor recognising his poor behaviour.
Love and Other Drugs fails to fulfil the promise its marketing campaign has projected. This isn’t a realistic relationship; it’s as far removed from reality as any other unoriginal rom-com. The film invents entirely improbable central conflicts, simply because otherwise there is no conflict for Jamie and Maggie to overcome.
Gyllenhaal and Hathaway’s considerable talents deserve better material, with both making the best of a poor film. Unfortunately for all involved, Love and Other Drugs is sorely lacking; predictable from the outset, it’s certainly not as groundbreaking as it hoped it would be.