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LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS

SYNOPSIS:
Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a medical school dropout, is now a gregarious, enthusiastic salesman - and womaniser. His brother Josh (Josh Gad) is a tech-nerd; neither of them impress their parents. When Jamie switches jobs to sell pharmaceuticals for sales manager Bruce Jackson (Oliver Platt) at Pfizer, his efforts to influence doctors, especially Dr Knight (Hank Azaria) lead him into meeting one of Dr Knight's patients, Maggie (Anne Hathaway). Jamie's advances don't get him very far - at first; but he's relentless and a tentative relationship begins, while Jamie rises in his career. But her illness holds Maggie back from full commitment even as Jamie realizes his feelings for Maggie are far deeper than he has experienced before.

Review by Louise Keller:
Relationships, sex and vulnerability are the themes of this romantic drama that offers a compelling prescription for a complex journey, complete with side effects. Based on Jamie Reidy's book 'Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman', the film's strength lies in the wonderful pairing of Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, whose charisma and sexuality ignite. The power it commands comes from the credibility of their onscreen relationship. Hathaway's Maggie and Gyllenhaal's Jamie have no inhibitions whatsoever about baring their flesh in intimate situations; the symbolic baring of souls is something that develops gradually, as the story plays out. Don't be fooled that this is a sugar-coated film floating in a cloud of hearts and flowers. There's a bite to the story, reminding us that we are never prepared for the impact of that one special person or equipped to face the uncertainty lurking around the corner.

The year is 1996 and when we first meet Gyllenhaal's superficial charmer Jamie, we can see at a glance he is a born salesman. He can sell anything - including himself, which he makes a point of doing with every pretty girl who crosses his path. Jamie has no qualms about doing what it takes to get what he wants - as a novice pharmaceutical rep, in order to get Zoloft onto the medico's shelves he will stoop and swoop to low, wet, smarmy and personal costs. Sex is what brings Jamie and Maggie together; this is an opportunity for both to escape from themselves for a couple of pleasurable hours, with no strings attached. But then things change.

Director Edward Zwick (who also had a hand in writing the screenplay) orchestrates the tension in the central relationship superbly, while incidental subplots come and go on the periphery. Most disturbing is the portrait of the pharmaceutical industry; a sad indictment of our times. I was rather bored by Jamie's masturbating, porn-loving, fat-boy brother (Josh Gad) and ambivalent about his rival rep Trey (Gabriel Macht), the advocate for Prozac samples. The scenes in which a homeless man picks up on the fact that Jamie is ditching all Trey's samples into a dumpster may be unrealistic, but add a touch of irony. Hank Azaria offers a good presence as the doctor who can be bought. When Viagra hits the shelves, Jamie thinks his fortune is made; who else to get the message out there?

But our interest rests on the complex relationship between Jamie and Maggie as they go from sex-partners to friends and confidantes. Hathaway steals every scene in a luminous performance, while Gyllenhaal transforms effectively from selfish to selfless. Involving and engrossing, this is a memorable love story and one that resonates.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Above average romantic comedies are welcome in a world of cynicism, selfishness and plain stupidity; Love and Other Drugs is one of these, an intelligent and often entertaining story of two unlikely people drawn to each other ... as opposites are. And there are good sex scenes to boot, with Anne Hathaway who has a way of being both sweetly innocent and sexy all at once as Maggie and a likeably macho Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie.

There is plenty of meat in the screenplay, layers of emotionally charged secrets and demons to haunt our protagonists. As Jamie matures into a real man, Maggie has to learn to accept his love with hope - it's a challenge for both. We have to believe all this absolutely to make it work and to care about everything that happens to them.

Both leads work wonders with their characters, surrounded as they are by a collection of crazy and annoying people; Jamie's brother Josh (Josh Gad) spends his days watching porn on Jamie's lounge after being kicked out of his girlfriend's place - for watching porn. Jamie's manager Bruce Jackson (Oliver Platt) is an enthusiast with ambition he struggles to satisfy - and Platt delivers a well rounded, high volume and painfully real character.

Dr Knight (Hank Azaria) is an opinion-leader amongst his peers, but his private life is a bit sordid. To Jamie's consternation, Dr Knight has befriended egotistical smart-aleck salesman Trey (Gabriel Macht) - his biggest competitor. That is until Pfizer launches Viagra, giving the sales chart an erection and propelling Jamie onward and upward in his career.

Also making a memorable contribution is Judy Greer as the medical centre receptionist who falls for Jamie's charm - but is soon left in his wake.

Director Ed Zwick has managed the film's tone with care, starting with a broad, noisy, freewheeling mood which gradually morphs into the start of a romance and all the sex that goes with it, and then to fading hope, and a more serious tone in which to find the answers that both Jamie and Maggie seek - albeit by different means.

There's laughter and fun here, but also a melancholy note that extends throughout the film, which is what grounds it so firmly in a recognisable reality; and makes the film satisfying.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

INTERVIEW WITH ED ZWICK

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (MA)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Katheryn Winnick, Judy Greer, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Gabriel Macht

PRODUCER: Edward Zwick, Pieter Jan Brugge, Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Stuber

DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick

SCRIPT: Edward Zwick, Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz (novel Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Fierberg

EDITOR: Steven Rosenblum

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patti Podesta

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 16, 2010







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