On Love & Other Drugs
As noted in my Colin Firth article earlier about The King’s Speech, I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me (we?) so much more receptive to the heart-swellers. It’s American Thanksgiving.
And while I am not American and already celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, it’s like a switch that gets flipped, perhaps around the same time as Christmas lights (cheese!), when “feelgood” becomes an unconscious motivation, when it’s easier for petty bitches like me to want the best for other people. I can’t be the only one?
The Blind Side took advantage of this phenomenon last year, Love Actually takes advantage of me every year, and so it was in this spirit that I was really into Love & Other Drugs. Not because it’s a perfect movie (it’s not), not because it’s not formulaic (it is), not because it tries to be too many things to too many people (it does), but because if you, like me, at this time of year, are looking for a Big Love, Bursting Heart Love Story, this one delivers.
But first... as romantic comedies go, this isn’t terribly original. I mean, Anne Hathaway plays an “artist” with unruly hair. Come on. And, as you probably saw from the trailers, he Stops the Bus. This is Romantic Comedy go-to 101. We’re not breaking new ground. We’re also overwhelmed by too many competing threads. There’s a message in here about pharmaceutical companies and their alarming influence; the seeming lack of morality that impacts your ability to get receive the best course of treatment possible that – it is suggested – seems to hinge on how much pussy a drug rep can secure his target doctor. This message however is too complicated and, frankly, too important to be jammed into a light little story that is, essentially, about two people trying to find their way. The conceit, I suppose, at least to me, is the ambivalence of life, I guess, in every approach – to your job, to your relationship, to your goals. Will you continue to ignore the systemic flaws at work/at home for the quick satisfying short hits? And if so, how long can this be sustained?
I didn’t care.
At least not in this story.
It’s enough that their togetherness is fragile. It’s enough that they both must learn to cope. And while it’s commendably ambitious to, through Maggie and Jamie, engage us in a discussion on pharmaceutical promotional and sales practices (to the detriment of the patient), at some point you have to decide what you want your movie to be. And right now this movie wants to be too many things.
Having said that, even though there are some problems, what saves Love & Other Drugs is ultimately its two actors. As I’ve noted, too many times, the chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal is so cute, so sexy, so sweet, so real, so addictive, I couldn’t resist, I wanted to keep watching. Them. Only them. Them laughing. Them kissing. Them f-cking. Them in the car. Them crying. Them talking. Them them them. I am obsessed with them. I am obsessed with how they made me believe them. And you know you believe it when there’s a knot that happens where you breathe, like you’re the person who’s being left, or you’re the person he’s been waiting for all night in the car, just because there’s nothing else he wanted to do. Because waiting for you is the closest thing to being with you. Have you ever done that? Have you ever waited for someone deliberately, instead of occupying yourself with friends/tv/sleep/whatever, because that’s all you can think about, and all you want to think about? Even if it’s excruciatingly slow? When it’s done right in a movie, when Anne Hathaway’s eyes sparkle to see Jake there, with his head slightly tilted, and just the right mixture of hope and defiance and insecurity in his face, well, at this time of year, it’ll win me over every time. Some contrivances work every time.
And that’s my barometer. Yes, it’s a cliché romantic comedy, and still I buy that that’s how two people could and would be, and, perhaps more importantly, that’s the story I wouldn’t mind daydreaming about being myself. For what it’s worth then, for what it is, for imaginary escapes and other moviegoing experiences, I’m all over it.
So it’s the end of November. It’s exactly a month to Christmas. Are you in That Mood?