Here's the problem with romantic comedies: Most of them are so formulaic that you can anticipate the plot of the entire film before you even step foot inside the theater. To the contrary, the best romances are rarely comedies. Still, every couple of years we're treated to a truly entertaining romance like The Notebook or When Harry Met Sally. Love and Other Drugs is neither of these, but stands above most romantic comedies because of Anne Hathaway's stellar performance.
Love and Other Drugs is set in 1996, which, as it happens, is right around the time that the country and the Clintons were smarting over the first failed attempt at health care reform. Against this backdrop arrives Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young pharmaceutical salesman. Jamie meets Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), who has early-onset Parkinson's disease, while he's trying to sell her doctor (Hank Azaria) Zoloft. After an inauspicious introduction that ends with Maggie attacking Jamie with a briefcase, they realize that there's a spark smoldering here. Both only want casual sex, so they begin to carry on - a lot - with that mutual desire. Despite Maggie's attempts to push Jamie away, the two fall hard for each other. In the midst of their budding romance, Jamie begins to sell Viagra, paving the way for a big promotion.
One of the biggest problems with the film is that it tries to be too many things at once. It begins as the traditional fall-for-the-sick-girl romance, and then it's a commentary about the prescription drug industry in the '90s. Maggie occasionally takes the seniors she works with to Canada because they can't afford to buy their medications in America, which could have been a bigger plot point had they pinned it against Jamie's career in the drug world.
Hathaway takes on a different role in her always-growing repertoire of characters. She's a free-spirited, artistic spitfire who won't let anyone, especially Jamie, get too close. Her portrayal of a Parkinson's sufferer is subtle yet effective and worthy of recognition. Gyllenhaal brings spirit and likeability to Jamie as the consummate salesman, but his performance is nothing extraordinary.
Love and Other Drugs may try too hard to be too many different things, but its main characters draw you in enough to make you care for them and their future together. While it may not ever measure up to the all-time great romantic comedies, it nevertheless is arguably the best from the genre all year.
Love and Other Drugs
Starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by Edward Zwick