Judge Gordon Sullivan is limiting his self-medicated love.
"They can't help falling in love under the influence of the ultimate drug…love!"
Occasionally it's nice to pause and appreciate how good consumers have it in the digital age. Decades ago a movie came into the theaters, was seen during its initial run, and unless it was popular, fans would have to wait for a random TV airing or revival house to get their fix. These days it's almost guaranteed that if a film plays in the theaters it will have some sort of home video release as well, meaning fans get their favorite films sooner. But it also means that movies have more than a few weeks to find their audience. That helps in the case of a film like Love & Other Drugs, which finds itself in the uncomfortable territory between light romantic comedy and heavy serious drama. With this strong Blu-ray, hopefully the film will find the audience that seemed to elude it in the theaters.
Facts of the Case
Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain) was born into a family of doctors, but as the film opens in 1997 he's selling high-end stereo equipment. He's good at it, and he has a special ability in charming the ladies. The only problem is he's sleeping with his boss' girlfriend, which gets him fired. Luckily, his brother has a friend who works for Pfizer, and gets Jamie a job as a pharmaceutical rep. Although he's an up and comer, his company's products are having difficult competing with the more entrenched names like Prozac. While trying to find his groove, Jamie meets Maggie, an artist with Parkinson's disease. They both seem to only want sex, but of course that can't last. Jamie and Maggie have to decide if they take their casual relationship to the next level.
I heard very little about Love & Other Drugs while it was making the theatrical rounds, but I knew it was a contemporary romantic comedy. So, I was a little taken aback when the rating before the movie came up as R. I knew Judd Apatow and the contemporary hard-R comics were nowhere to be found in the movie, so the fact that the film didn't try to aim for PG-13 territory immediately gave it some cred.
Strangely, the R rating signaled a potential problem with Love & Other Drugs. The film was way beyond the typical light rom-com in terms of language and nudity, but nowhere near the filthy cursing and gratuitous nudity of other recent R-rated comedies. That's not the only place where Love & Other Drugs is neither fish nor fowl. The first act seems like a total romantic comedy, with the busy player meeting the sexy free spirit. Then things head for weepy-ville in the second act, as the pair get more involved and the specter of Parkinson's disease rears its head. The film is a little more serious in some of these moments, but for the most part the jokes and silly situations keep coming. This mix of comedy and serious drama ensures that Love & Other Drugs doesn't fit comfortably in either category.
Luckily, the film has two stars willing to make the material work. Jake Gyllenhaal pours on the charm as Jamie, and even makes the somewhat miraculous change from apparent sex-maniac to loveable and loving boyfriend seem realistic. Anne Hathaway has the bulk of the dramatic work, making her free spirit character both strong and vulnerable. She's also not afraid of making some physical changes as well, as the disease takes its toll on her. I'm sure it will help fans of all persuasions that both stars are pretty willing to get naked in the film as well. Although it's far from excessive or gratuitous (as the nudity goes from showing that both characters are very physical people to showing their growing intimacy), there is pretty regularly nudity from both stars (and a couple of others). This isn't the full monty treatment or anything, but we get more than a glimpse of both stars in the buff.
But enough about that…even though they spend a decent amount of the film naked, the stars are supported by a strong cast. The two stand outs are Oliver Platt, as Jamie's mentor in the pharmaceutical industry, and Hank Azaria, one of Jamie customers. Both actors play slightly more toned down characters than is their norm, and it's especially nice to see Azaria doing something subdued. And these are just two of the numerous other actors who make Love & Other Drugs work.
On Blu-ray, Love & Other Drugs has been given a strong, 1080p AVC-encoded transfer. Colors are especially impressive…many newer comedies are bright, with bold colors. Love opts for a slightly more subdued, more realistic palette, and that's well-represented here with solid colors and accurate flesh tones. Detail is well represented, and no digital artifacting mars the presentation. The DTS-HD track is similarly impressive. This is a dialogue heavy film, so most of the track sticks with the center channel, but when the (well-chosen) songs on the soundtrack kick in they are appropriately immersive.
Extras are sadly brief. We get a set of deleted scenes that flesh out a few situations, and then four short featurettes. The featurettes are EPK-style, with lots of gushing from the actors and writer/director Edward Zwick about how wonderful everyone is and how well the project went. A Digital Copy of the film is available on a second disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Love & Other Drugs doesn't really add anything new to the rom-com pantheon. Its neither-here-nor-there style—not quite light but far from serious, R-rated but not hard-R—keeps it from really making an impact on those just looking for something fun or on those who want their romance with a little bite. Love & Other Drugs has its merits, but this is certainly not a romantic comedy for everyone.
Love & Other Drugs is an enjoyable, though not groundbreaking, entry into the romantic comedy genre. One hopes that future filmmakers learn that it's possible, even a good idea, to let serious dramatic actors take a crack at lighter fare without sacrificing anything. Certainly it's not a film for everyone, but Love & Other Drugs is worth a rental for anyone with an interest in adult romantic comedies, or either of the two leads.
Despite its ups and downs, Love & Other Drugs is not guilty.
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