1996. What a year. Complete with its clunky electronics (snaps for cassette tapes), the first minutes of director Edward Zwick”s Love and Other Drugs is like a time capsule. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie Randall is hard at work selling TVs, cell phones and other technological gizmos while also having a liasion in the back room. As he kisses this career goodbye we learn everything we need to know about Jamie Randall: he’s good at womanizing and making the sale.
Logically, Jamie is also the black sheep of his family. His overweight, not as charming, brother – don’t even try to figure out how these two could possibly be related – is some sort of computer tech millionaire and Jamie couldn’t finish college. But when Jamie jumps on board the Pfizer train as a drug salesman, his schmoozing and womanizing skills come in handy.
As Jamie shows he can sell Zoloft and Viagra better than anyone, he begins a relationship with Maggie Murdock, played by Anne Hathaway. She’s an artist with early on-set Parkinson’s. At first she doesn’t want anything serious, afraid someone would feel they have to take care of her. It seems perfect because Jamie, always the womanizer (can’t Judy Greer ever catch a break?), doesn’t want anything serious either.
Enter Hathaway and Gyllenhaal’s naked romp. Boy, they are naked a lot in this movie. A lot. Did I emphasis that enough? They are naked. A lot.
The attention to the actor’s rather bold display of nudity instead of the jumpy plot (Is this movie about the pharmaceutical industry? Is it about their romance?) takes away from the movie. The trouble is when the steamy sex scenes die down (And thankfully so. After one disgusting scene with that unnecessary brother character, you don’t want to see Hathaway or Gyllenhaal naked ever again.), Love and Other Drugs has little going for it.
Because Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are great performers, they can turn the crappiest of scripts into something worth digesting. Part of the movie focuses on Maggie’s battle with Parkinson’s and that is actually vaguely interesting. During a scene set in a Parkinson’s support group, the disease is given attention to move Hathaway’s character away from Love Story territory.
Still even that is not enough to prevent Love and Other Drugs from flailing along.
There was a nice article in yesterday’s New York Times about the current state of the romantic comedy.
A.O. Scott writes: […]
“the dispiriting, uninspired sameness of romantic comedy strikes me as something of a scandal. […]
“Our parents and grandparents had Rock Hudson and Doris Day — such delicious subtext! such amazing office furniture! — or Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Or Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Or Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Or even, in That Touch of Mink, Cary Grant and Doris Day. But you get the point. We have Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. […]
“Which brings me back — apologies to both; it’s nothing personal — to Mr. McConaughey, Ms. Hudson and their photogenic ilk. They are, for sure, better looking than the rest of us, but in their screen incarnations almost programmatically less interesting. “
This excerpt highlights something that has always bothered me about current romantic comedies and their pairings. I don’t care that the plots are predictable; I actually sometimes enjoy how predictable they are and then seeing how the film plays with (or doesn’t) expectatations. But I hate (or strongly dislike) the actors that are chosen to play these roles because there is nothing there that sparks my interest and keeps me wanting to see an entire, predictable romantic comedy.
Anyway, that’s just one bit from the article, which you can read in its entirety here.
The first months of the year are never known for delivering quality movies. Usually this isn’t noticeable because the award season has every one’s attention. Yet once the Oscars telecast ends, the lack of any decent movies becomes increasingly apparent. Music and Lyrics is one of the rare movies released during the January freeze that isn’t complete crap.
Music and Lyrics, released on Valentine’s Day, pairs up Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, two of the best romantic-comedy actors of the past 10 years.
Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a member of the former 80s pop band, POP!, who is receiving endless offers to appear on VH1 type shows (Battle of the Former 80s Stars, anyone?). He is then given an opportunity to write a song for the over-sexed newest pop sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). The problem is, he’s not that good at writing songs.
Enter Barrymore’s character, Sophie Fisher, the woman hired to water his plants. She has a certain gift for writing catchy lyrics and soon a songwriting partnership is born. Of course, their budding romance will face pretty obvious challenges, but all in all, this is a cute and funny movie. Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston provide extra laughs in their supporting roles as Alex’s manager and Sophie’s sister respectively.
If you need to relax for a while, go see Music and Lyrics. It may not be the greatest romantic comedy ever made, but it is certainly not a movie you would consider a waste of money and time if you did venture out to see it.
Woody Allen “was a pioneer of a more Freudian obstacle to love, which was the totally self-absorbed leading man’s character,” Ms. Ephron says of the 1979 film about a wrtier who dates a teenager and falls for his friends mistress. “What is miraculous about this movie is, you still love Woody.
Pride and Prejudice
Ms. Ephron says she was in “complete bliss” when she say Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of the classic, starring OScar noinee Keira Knightley. “It portrayed Elizabeth Bennet as a tomboy and I’ve never seen that done before,” she says. She also enjoyed the 1995 BBC version (available on DVD) starring Colin Firth.
“I remember when I saw the trailer, I thought ‘Oh, yeah right, how is this going to work?'” Ms. Ephron says of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy about a weatherman who falls in love while reliving the same day again and again. “And yet, it’s a miracle: Every time you see it, it moves one inch forward. You can’t believe it.”
The Lady Vanishes
“Most people think of it as a thriller, but the truth is, it’s a very classic romantic comedy that happens to have a thriller plot,” Ms. Ephron says of Alfred Hitchcok’s 1938 film about a couple searching for a woman who’s disappeared on a train.
What are your favorite romantic comedies? My all-time favorite is Bringing Up Baby and Annie Hall but I have a soft spot for Dirty Dancing.