Review: Love and Other Drugs (2010)

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.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway Are Oscars Co-Hosts

Talk about thinking outside the box.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this afternoon that actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway will cohost the 2011 Oscars. Producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer noted that with Franco and Hathaway “personify the next generation of Hollywood icons – fresh, exciting and multi-talented.”

I have faith that Franco and Hathaway are more than capable hosts. They are both proven live performers with boundless appeal and charm. Hathaway, in particular, flashed her Oscar hosting potential in 2008 when she appeared with host Hugh Jackman in the opening number.

Something still feels off about this hosting selection.  This is an obvious attempt on the part of producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer to attract younger viewers. But will it actually work? I hardly think the Oscars should worry about drawing a younger audience.

It is worth nothing that Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting stint last year attracted more than 41 million people, the most since 2005.  This only proves one thing: it is not the Oscars host that matters but the movies nominated. Without an Avatar nominated for Best Picture this year, the Oscars telecast ratings will expectedly drop.

What is your take on James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscars hosts?

The 83rd Academy Award will be held on February 27, 2011.

First Look: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have partnered for the seventh time. This time for a remake of Alice in Wonderland and the first pictures of the film look absolutely fantastic.

According to producer Richard Zanuck, “The book itself is pretty dark. This is for little people and people who read it when they were little 50 years ago.”

Follow this link to see pictures of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Matt Lucas) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, in yet another perfect role).

Until we can see some footage for what is guaranteed to be a trippy and cool adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s book, here is a clip from the Disney 1951 animated film.

Alice in Wonderland will be released March 5, 2010.

Review: Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions. But weddings are also the times when a family’s past can come back to haunt them. Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Jenny Lumet, follows a wedding that is festive and celebratory but also painstakingly heartbreaking.

The films focuses on the complicated relationship between sisters Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Kym (Anne Hathaway). After nine months in rehab, Kym has come home for her sister’s wedding and her presence ensures that the past will more present than ever. Bill Irwin, Anne Deavere Smith, and Debra Winger play prominent supporting roles.

Hathaway is playing against type as a tormented drug-addict and she delivers a fine performance that screams Oscar worthy. Yet it is DeWitt’s subtle performance as the long-suffering Rachel that truely shines. There is a complexity to the character of Rachel that is not seen in Kym. Rachel’s feelings, emotion and past are revealed more through simple gestures than Kym’s verbal revelations. Rachel Getting Married might be a vehicle for Hathaway to prove herself as something more than a Disney princess but it is a star-making role for DeWitt.

Using mostly handheld camera shots and naturalistic techniques, Demme captures the essence of a family struggling to come to terms with the past as they start a new beginning. At times Rachel Getting Married reads more like a documentary than a narrative. Yet for the viewer, there is an odd ghostly presence to the film; you find yourself peering in on this family’s past and discovering their secrets.

This is Demme’s best film since The Silence of the Lambs. The performances of Hathaway and DeWitt and the stellar script by Lumet make Rachel Getting Married a film not to be missed.

Updated November 24, 2010