Prescription for love

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The Spectrum

Movie: Love and Other Drugs

Release Date: Nov. 24, 2010

Grade: B

In a world where it seems like there is a new romantic comedy coming out every five minutes, it's refreshing when a filmmaker can put a new spin on an overdone trend. Love and Other Drugs has accomplished this and the end result is interesting entertainment.

Set in 1997, Love and Other Drugs revolves around the character of Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), the charming, underachieving, and womanizing son of a doctor who is smart enough to become one himself, if he only had the desire or the discipline to do so.

Overshadowed by his millionaire brother Josh (Josh Gad, Bored to Death), Jamie becomes a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer. Led by his goofball mentor Bruce (Oliver Platt, Bored to Death), Jamie enters the cutthroat world of pharmaceutical sales, determined to outsell his rival salesman Trey Hannigan (Gabriel Macht, One Way to Valhalla).

Everything changes, however, when one day, Jamie meets Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway, Alice in Wonderland), a beautiful and free-spirited artist with early-onset Parkinson's disease. Instantly attracted, they begin a highly sexual relationship with no emotional strings attached. Things get complicated, however, when both begin to realize that, despite their better judgments, they have fallen in love with one another.

Writer/director Edward Zwick (Defiance), best known for his heroic films, has tried his hand at the rom-com genre with surprisingly good results. The film is part sexually-charged comedy and part heartfelt drama.

The plot of the film is a little all over the place. It begins with an overcharged scene of Gyllenhaal's character selling stereo equipment and continues this hyperactive glimpse at pharmaceutical sales until about halfway through the film, when it suddenly becomes softcore porn for a while.

Toward the end, the film switches gears again and becomes a heartfelt struggle for Gyllenhaal's character to come to terms with the mortality and bodily decline of his beloved.

Because of the quick stylistic transitions that occur throughout the film, the characters are constantly changing and evolving, and the two leads are forced to adapt accordingly. Luckily, the film has been well cast and this is not a problem for Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, who both deliver quite believable performances.

Both characters begin as sexually hungry, intelligent, and quick-witted individuals who complement each other nicely from the get-go. Luckily for audiences, both leads are easy on the eyes as well, which is good, because the amount of nudity pushes the censors even for an R-rated film.

However, as time goes on, both characters develop a mature relationship and both have to deal with their own issues in different ways. As more emphasis is placed on the deteriorating health of Hathaway's character, the film begins to evolve into a very moving study of the power of love and emotional strength. A scene in which Hathaway's character attends a Parkinson's patient seminar is especially touching.

While both of the leads give fine performances, Hathaway shines in this film. She portrays the emotional turmoil of a Parkinson's patient with complexity and believability.

A scene in which her character drinks in order to numb the emotional and physical pain of her disease is both realistic and heart wrenching as the audience watches her character go on an emotional rollercoaster, quickly moving from depression to anger to frustration and back again.

While Love and Other Drugs doesn't hit the target straight on, it attempts to add a new spin on the romantic comedy genre and succeeds in many ways.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com