Love and Other Drugs

Year: 2010
Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures
Director: Edward Zwick
Producer: Edward Zwick/Charles Randolph/Marshall Herskovitz
Writer: Edward Zwick/Charles Randolph/Marshall Herskovitz
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Gabriel Macht, Judy Greer, George Segal

This film is the perfect example of how film criticism is sometimes a useless art. Blanket appeal is Hollywood's standard approach, but depending on where you are in your life a movie can speak to you in a very direct way despite everyone else missing the same point.

Take serious films about teenagers. In Twilight my sympathies lay with Bella's father – while this beautiful teenager lazes around in self indulgent angst she has food on the table and a school to go to because he's the one going to work every day to make it possible.

In this case, the message about how difficult it can be to love someone who isn't Hollywood perfect hit me right where I live. I can understand the complaints I've read about it not knowing what it is, careering between a satire of the pharmaceutical industry, a soppy love story and a slapstick romantic comedy.

But the lynchpin is the reality and heart of Maggie (Hathaway) and Jamie (Gyllenhaal) falling in love, even though their characters are sketched to very clichéd templates (the handsome playboy who can seduce any woman into bed at a glance, the free spirit who's afraid to love).

Yes there are silly scenes of comic foil, and both Jamie's brother and his boss (Platt) are both sidekicks to his straight man. Sometimes Jamie's also the comic relief himself, as he is in the Viagra side effects scene.

But the feeling, understanding and romantic struggle between Jamie and Maggie is palpable and despite their caricature trappings, they feel very real.

It also helped the movie enormously that it wasn't targeted at 12 year olds. The script is only too happy to admit adults like sex for its own sake – you usually only see it used as a tool of terror or a reason to ensnare, never just because we like it. Sex in movies means you belong to someone.

But Hathaway bares all as a fully rounded young woman with many facets to her life, liking sex just one of them. She bares all in the physical sense (pleasurable enough for such a gorgeous and expressive actress), but also emotionally, playing the part of young onset Parkinson's sufferer Maggie just right. It's not an Oscar grab, but she makes you believe it and the future she faces breaks your heart for her a little, making Jamie's determination to love her even sweeter.

The impotence scene also deserves an honourable mention. The other truth about sex movies never show is that it needs relaxation and – often – humour to work. When performance anxiety strikes Jamie, he worries about the sleight on his virility, making it worse. Maggie relaxes and jokes about it, he laughs too and the anxiety and impotence pass.

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