Is love really a drug? Many would argue that, yes, it is (this, of course, includes Ke$ha). The effects of being in love can simulate some of the same euphoric feelings one gets from MDMA, heroin, cocaine, or taking all three at once (not that I would know. I’m a liquor man myself). In any case, that is the latent presupposition of Love and Other Drugs, the screenplay of which was written by the unstoppable duo of Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (you know, they were responsible for thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. And that internet show, Quarterlife, but I don’t think anyone really gave a shit about that in the long-term).
As you may have gathered from the trailer (and if you didn’t, you may be mildly retarded), the film takes place at the dawn of one of Pfizer’s best selling drugs, Viagra. Though the opening of the movie is captioned with the year 1996, Viagra was not approved by the FDA until 1998, which, presumably, is the amount of time that the story takes place over, though this is never really made clear. Another somewhat beleaguering element of the film is the music that is played. Do you really think any self-respecting person would still be listening to “Two Princes” by The Spin Doctors in 1996? The answer is an emphatical “No.” And if I saw a guy who worked at an electronics store (which is where the hero of our story starts out) blasting that on a stereo, I definitely wouldn’t buy it. But, musical preferences aside, Love and Other Drugs, for the most part, doesn’t accent the time period of the late 90s all that heavily.
What the filmmakers did decide to highlight from Jamie Reidy’s novel, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, is that Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads a fairly uncomplicated life–that is to say, no strings attached style fucking. And it’s not really because he’s a “bad guy,” it’s really just because he can. And because no one has come along that could strike his interest for more than a few trysts. Enter Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway, rejoining Jake Gyllenhaal after missing out on that sweet nectar in Brokeback Mountain), a victim of Parkinson’s disease, a fact that, in part, makes her brutally honest in the name of not wasting time.
Calculably, the relationship endures more than its fair share of hiccups. The hiccups are more like gigantic belches really. Including one where some overwrought husband at a Parkinson’s disease convention tells Jamie to cut his losses before he gets too involved with Maggie. And then there’s Maggie’s perpetual reflex to push Jamie away for both of their own good. But Jamie won’t hear of it. And then he decides, “Oh yeah, maybe she’s right. We shouldn’t be together.” But then he thinks they should. But then he thinks they shouldn’t. Then right back to should again. It goes on like that for most of the third act.
For all of the back and forth, there is one particular line of dialogue at the closing of the film that puts most of the trials and tribulations in perspective: “You will come into contact with thousands of people in your life, and none of them will affect you. But then, one person comes along and changes you.” Or something to that basic effect. I should really bootleg this shit. But I’m too goddamn lo-fi. Anyway, that line would’ve been the perfect conclusion to the sentimental nature of Love and Other Drugs–until Regina’s Spektor’s “Fidelity” starts playing over the credits. Jesus, talk about “taking you out of the film.” That song was released in 2006, a sizable ten years after Love and Other Drugs is supposed to have occurred. And it’s not even a song that’s incredibly apropos, and therefore worth leaving the decade of the 90s just to emphasize a theme. The music director and script supervisor were not nearly as collaborative as they should have been.