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.

Review: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

To say that Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain is just a gay cowboy movie would be giving it the short end of the stick. It is captivating, touching and an amazingly excellent picture and those reasons alone should silence the childish snickering.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist respectively. The men meet in the summer of 1963 when they are hired to be sheepherders on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. They spend two weeks on the trail and instantly develop a connection then a sexual relationship. They then separate for fours years and move on with their lives. They both marry and have children; Del Mar to Alma (Michelle Williams) and Twist to Lureen (Anne Hathaway). But even after their initial separation neither man can forget the time they spent on Brokeback Mountain. The remainder of the film follows the men as their lives and relationship continue to evolve.

This is a film that will remain with you long after it is over. The performances in this film are completely mesmerizing. Heath Ledger delivers beyond the most powerful screen performance of recent memory. But what got me the most was story. Whether you agree with it or not, Brokeback Mountain is a love story. It is a bittersweet story of an impossible and unacceptable yearning that ends much too soon. No matter your opinion, see it. Brokeback Mountain will affect you.

Updated October 9, 2010