It's not the greatest love story of movie history, but Love and Other Drugs is a strong character study about two people who struggle through their relationship's early stages to advance to the tougher middle stages.
A major curve ball in the mix is that the Anne Hathaway character, Maggie, has early onset Parkinson's disease.
To many, this would be a major "no-relationship-zone" issue, but Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is sure that Maggie's illness is not going to be a problem since he's NOT in a relationship with her…they are just having fun, i.e., lots of sex. He's not planning on being around long enough for her "problems" to affect him.
On Maggie's side, she's enjoying keeping her sex partners at a fair distance since her life is mostly up in the air with her health changing daily.
So, fine … the non-relationship starts out light and for a while, things are great. But, then the inevitable happens … feelings start emerging, "light" becomes "heavier" and hearts enter the picture. What to do, what to do?
Jamie has convinced himself that he's excited about the relationship prospects with Maggie until someone clues him in on what is ahead concerning Maggie's disease. Suddenly, reality is too heavy and Jamie needs to back off. Can he pull away from Maggie or is he in too deep?
Both performances by Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are top-notch. Jamie's "keep-it-light" persona could have gone quite wrong--into the world of either too phony or too harsh. Similarly, Maggie's lighthearted, casual approach to everything, including her disease, could have been portrayed as too sappy and false.
Because of the strength of the performances from Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, both Jamie and Maggie come across as realistic and likeable throughout.
Also attributing to the solidness of both the characters and the story is director Edward Zwick, who excels in romantic dramas with heaps of complication. Zwick's About Last Night (1986) was one of the best relationship movies ever, especially the best of the 1980s.
Like About Last Night, this film excels at the tough dramatic scenes, but what keeps the story from falling into the morbid tearjerker mold is the well-placed humor. Not too over the top, the laughs come at just the right moments to keep this one from taking itself too seriously.
Love and Other Drugs: 2010, 112 minutes, rated R, directed by Edward Zwick, starring Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt. The Niles Public Library will have copies of this film on DVD once it is released later in 2011.