L-shaped sheets, cellulite-free bodies, perfectly compatible partners and fireworks every time - when it comes to sex and relationships, Hollywood is on a mission to mess with all our minds. Based on Jamie Reidy's non-fiction book 'Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman', 'Love and Other Drugs' wants to go beyond all the gloss and soft-focus lighting to show the emotional messiness of human interaction and the real-life dilemmas the rest of us face - with a bit of extra nudity thrown in.
Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) is a smooth-talking electronics salesman who notches up as many conquests as he does commissions. The runt of the family in career terms (father: doctor, sister: doctor, brother: internet millionaire), Jamie dropped out of medical school and now coasts through life on charm, never questioning his behaviour or dealing with the fact that his ladies' man behaviour is covering up a lot of insecurities.
After he's fired from his job for cheating with the boss' girlfriend, Jamie is lured by the big bucks of pharmaceutical sales and, on successfully completing Pfizer's boot camp, is dispatched to the dreary midwest where he and veteran Bruce Jackson (Platt) are in an anti-depressants war with a rival company. Cue more hustles, Jamie's alpha male version of taking his work home with him and much talk of Pfizer's imminent wonder drug Viagra, which both men think could be their ticket to the big time (promotion-wise, that is).
Jamie sees his current beat as a place to perfect his spiel and get on the right side of doctors so he can secure a move to Chicago - that is until he meets Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), an artist in the first stage of Parkinson's disease. She sees through the routine, shrinks his ego to a more manageable size, and doesn't have sex with him. Well, not at first, anyway.
Released as the first date movie for 2011, 'Love and Other Drugs' looks like a departure for director Edward Zwick, whose other works include 'Glory', 'The Last Samurai' and 'Defiance'. But Zwick's first film was the Rob Lowe and Demi Moore romance 'About Last Night', and this feels like 'About Last Night' for people who haven't seen 'About Last Night'. It's also one of the least interesting things on his CV, lurching between drama and comedy but more effective as the former.
Clichés - the oafish little brother, the accidental nude sighting, sex on the floor, the high-speed pursuit to declare undying love - abound. Some lines seem more suited to stage than screen. The Viagra subplot is unnecessary and throughout there's the suspicion that audiences are meant to believe they're watching something edgy and challenging because two of Hollywood's brightest young things have agreed to take some of their clothes off. The most interesting parts of the film are when they have them all on, and it's Hathaway who does the best work. Her mixture of bravado and fragility as Maggie is always more appealing than Gyllenhaal's Jamie, who Zwick and the other scriptwriters clearly think is far more likeable than the often one-and-a-half dimensional Jack the Lad on the screen.
The big message of 'Love and Other Drugs' is that you can't help who you fall in love with. That's very true, but you can choose what movies you see with them. Hopefully.