Before we get started here, a few caveats:
1. I'm not big on romantic comedies.
2. No matter how well he inhabits the character he's playing, Jake Gyllenhaal always looks like Jake Gyllenhaal to me.
3. I have an intense dislike of the commercialization of the pharmaceutical industry.
*very minor spoilers below*
Love & Other Drugs opened last Wednesday and has, to date, grossed $14 million. Amongst Jake Gyllenhaal flicks, this puts it on the low side of average. I walk the same emotional tightrope every time Jake puts out a movie. Being emotionally invested, I want his films to do well...but also I'm shamelessly piggybacking on his reputation and thus, on a personal level, his hopes become my hopes. I've gone through this several times now, and after three, four, five rounds of interviews and talk shows, I'm feeling the wear and tear. He always looks so damned earnest when he's selling his movies. Does he really believe that the one he's talking about at that moment is going to be a hit? I don't know. It's his job to make us believe he does. All I know is what I observed through this community, and that's that the interest and excitement for Love & Other Drugs peaked way too soon...
I'm extremely interested in the reactions of those who saw the movie early. I've never heard of a film being screened so widely before its release, and considering all the positive buzz coming from the test audiences, I wonder if the movie they saw was the same one I did, or if I'm just being a nerd as usual and looking far too deeply into things.
So here are my thoughts: The movie was alright.
(And this is the point at which everyone rightly rolls their eyes and groans at me. Because here I go again!!)
The first half made me depressed, because (see point #1 above about romantic comedies) I don't even have an incurable disease and no one ever relentlessly pursues my affections. The second half made me even more depressed, because, er, it was depressing. And by the end of it, I realized that all I had really wanted to watch was a movie about the sleazy underside of pharmaceutical sales. Because that was the part of the story that was legitimately interesting.
Unfortunately, more screen time was given to Hallmark-Hall-of-Fame-style confessional home videos than any exploration of the ramifications of working as a drug rep in the amoral world of pharmaceuticals. I realize this movie wasn't made to either condemn or celebrate America's colossally dysfunctional healthcare system, but hell, maybe it should have been. The way it stands, the potential political statement was steamrolled by the love story and the love story was stuffed haphazardly into the career subplot and really, why was there all that nudity? For all the promises of an "adult" love story (with crazy sex and toplessness), the whole thing felt pretty damned conventional in terms of a movie relationship. What's so shocking about a film where all men (even your doctor!) are sex-obsessed jerks and all women jump into bed with anyone who will have them at the first opportunity? And where's the originality in following a womanizing playboy who falls in love and renounces his ways? The woman's a bitch with a problem, the man's a player with a sensitive side, and this is every romantic comedy ever made.
It's just...the potential was there! It could have been great! But it wasn't great. And now I'm a bitch for even saying this because for years I've been lobbying for Jake to step outside his comfort zone and do a movie like this (or Prince of Persia) and now that he's done it, I'm denouncing the end result.
There's no satisfying me.
A few specifics:
- Josh Gad's character...WHY?! I like Josh Gad as much as the next Daily Show junkie but he was wasted here. Jamie could have been an only child and nothing would have been lost...except for a lot of discomfort on my part.
- Anne Hathaway was brilliant and totally stole the show.
- That said, if Anne Hathaway hadn't been in the movie, I would have liked the storyline better.
- The biggest laugh of the film for me was when the bus door hit Jake in the face. Because I'm actually 7.
- I was horribly disturbed at myself when, during Jake's nude scenes, my primary thought was, "Yeah, this is nothing I haven't seen before."
- Did Anne Hathaway work in that coffee shop? What was that?? And what was with her trucking seniors across the border? Was that her job, too? And did she sell her artwork? I don't understand her financial situation. And maybe it's not that important, but if so, why give her three jobs over the course of an hour or so of screentime?
- And maybe that sums up all of my problems here. Why that detail? Why any of the detail? Why did it matter that Jamie was a drug rep? Where was the coherency?
- Tellingly, the most enjoyable close-up of the entire film for me came when Jake said, "I'm full of shit."
- I love a good montage (the opening one was fan-tastic) but Christ, this movie was on montage-steroids.
- I read a review that said this film took place from 1996 to 1999. Did it? Where was that passage of time noted?
- I was kind of looking forward to some closure with whatshisname, the rival rep, but no.
- The hype over the sex scenes and nudity was so overblown. Ohmigaw.
- Jake did a good job and none of my complaints reflect on his performance.
- Speaking of Jake, for the second time in a row, he really looked like he was having fun with his chosen profession. Praise Jesus.
In summation, I'd love to know what those early test audiences thought about the final product, I'd love to know the thoughts of people who like romantic comedies, and I'd love it if movies were released at the same time the world over so we could all talk about this at once. But most of all, I'd love for all of you to yell at me now about being impossible and not loving this. Because I didn't. Even if Anne did make me cry twice.
6.5 out of 10 stars. And it only gets the point-five for the Macarena. [Insert joke about me being a "hard sell" here.]