Love and Other Drugs

What an odd little romance.

Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal: Prince of Persia) is a slick electronics salesman and ladies man. When the med school dropout is canned for stockroom indiscretion, he gives pharmaceutical sales a try, and he’s not that great. Until, that is, he calls upon his certain strengths to flirt his way to sales. As he struggles for a foothold in the ethical murk of prescription pushing, he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway: Alice in Wonderland), a willful artist and astute Parkinson’s patient who wows the serial seducer unto fixation. Casual sexual encounters and harsh candor ensue until Jake finally begins to discover love and empathy — even as he strikes gold with Viagra, the new wonder drug he was meant to sell.

The movie is at once a sexually brash romantic comedy and a smirking, slightly messagey indictment of pharmaceutical sales. But it’s mostly nudity. Gyllenhaal’s naked rear and Hathaway’s bare chest should have won first billing for their ubiquity.

Story jumps off from Hard Sell, an autobiographical exposé of the strange world of pharmaceutical sales by former hotshot Viagra salesman Jamie Reidy. In an attempt to make good on the raunchy potential of the little blue pill, director Edward Zwick (Defiance) orchestrates a cascade of sex scenes, brash-to-vulgar dialogue, and awkward/disturbing situational comedy (see Jamie’s brother enjoying a sex tape of Jamie and Maggie). He’s obviously trying very hard to push the envelope, and it’s often amusing. But he’s more concerned with being tawdry than setting up punchlines to land sharp blows, and his heavy dosage of naughtiness reaches the point of Skinemax programming.

The movie’s social consciousness, on the other hand, does a decent job of satirizing the pimping of prescription fads while serving up sympathetic portraits of patients neglected by the medical industry’s hubris. This serves as the engine for redemption, Jake awakening to the human side of medicine through his blooming love for Maggie. It’s a little flaky and syrupy — especially when faux soul wafts through the speakers to signal real connection. The movie shoves a pamphlet at you with a couple of directed lines of dialogue and teary witness to Parkinson’s patients’ anecdotes. But by and large, message is a light rap over the head, instead of a whomp.

Said short, this is a lewd romantic dramedy with gratuitous nudity bouncing around the conceit of profundity. It does a decent job of entertaining and airs views without too much preach. But in the end, you’re more likely to come away with a kaleidoscope of Anne Hathaway’s boobs reeling through your mind’s eye. And amazement that, for all the naked opportunities, Hank Azaria only ever flashed a quarter moon.

Fair romantic comedy · R · 112 mins.