Love & Other Drugs (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
Directed by Edward Zwick
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 112 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Review Date: February 28, 2011
There aren’t many more attractive or appealing young actors working today than Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, but their built-in good will doesn’t count for much in the erratic romantic comedy-drama Love & Other Drugs. The tone of the film seesaws giddily from laughs to lumps with precious little preparation for it, and when we get the old-fashioned manufactured Hollywood ending, it rings so falsely that it’s hard to give the film credit for the things it gets right. There is so much more that the makers get wrong, and it’s infuriating that the many good ingredients in this stew weren’t blended together with more skillful expertise, especially since the chefs are all experienced hands at this kind of cinematic cuisine.
Playboy Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) uses his natural good looks and charm to be a crackerjack salesman, but when his boss at the stereo equipment company gives him the ax for philandering with his girl, Jamie moves right into pharmaceutical sales. It’s 1996 and while Jamie is pushing Zoloft for Pfizer with fairly good initial success, he meets photographic artist Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) who’s visiting her doctor (Hank Azaria) for meds for her early onset Parkinson’s. Due to her illness whose symptoms vary in severity, Maggie isn’t interested in getting serious with any man, but as she and Jamie have an undeniable chemistry, she’s agreeable to a friends-with-benefits arrangement which works for a time but begins to become strained when genuine feelings of love enter the picture, first with him and later with her. When Viagra enters the marketplace, Jamie’s sales go through the roof, but with the growing seriousness of Maggie’s condition an undeniable inevitability, he’s concerned that he won’t be able to balance a hugely successful career with being her primary care-giver.
Director/co-writer Edward Zwick (along with co-writers Charles Randolph and Marshall Herskovitz) have kept the tone of the film mostly acerbic and prickly, a tricky task indeed for a romantic comedy, and while that does give the film an individuality that other romantic comedies almost never attain, it also makes this one harder to root for filled as it is with diatribes against the ruthlessly jockeying-for-power pharmaceutical companies and crammed to the gills with rather unlikable characters. Azaria’s doctor character, Gyllenhaal’s mentor (played by Oliver Platt), Gyllenhaal’s rival (played by Gabriel Macht), and above all Gyllenhaal’s younger brother (played by Josh Gad) are all pricks or worse, unappetizing individuals meant to be funny but emerging instead as trying and irritating presences. The movie ends up at least twenty minutes too long due to the focus on these side characters who add nothing of interest to the story. The third act break-up jammed into the movie really seems artificial and anemic with the eventual coming-to-terms-with-feelings just as mechanical and unproductive. The actors give these synthetic scenes their all, but they aren’t miracle workers, and the movie must bank on the leads’ likeability to make it through these very murky waters. It’s only partially successful.
The two stars are also to be credited with not minding nudity in the least as they both display a fair degree of flesh throughout this lengthy movie. They seem comfortable in their own skins, and Jake Gyllenhaal even handles the inevitable sequence dealing with his overdose of Viagra with grace (even if it is completely unnecessary to the movie and not nearly as funny as it’s meant to be). After their initial chemistry was revealed in Brokeback Mountain, it’s not hard to see why the two stars would want to appear together again in a film that would offer them both comic and dramatic opportunities. Too bad the dramatic scenes are so incongruous and artificial, material even their talents can’t completely save. Josh Gad is the film’s biggest disappointment, a schlubby character down on his luck after the dot-com crash who thinks of nothing but sex while doing nothing to rebuild his broken marriage or his life. It’s a completely vacant character whose comic business all falls flat and drags down scenes that he’s involved in. He’s part of an especially noisy and irksome scene around the family dinner table early in the movie which wastes the real talents of Jill Clayburgh and George Segal in nothing parent roles and is there only to show the disparity between the family’s golden child (Gad) and their black sheep (Gyllenhaal).
The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The sharpness in the image is the most irregular aspect of the transfer, usually quite detailed and impressive but on several occasions a bit soft or digital-appearing. Contrast is strong throughout, and color saturation is impressive. Flesh tones are gracefully natural. Black levels are very fine indeed. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places the nicely recorded dialogue into the center channel and uses the front and rear surrounds for a few ambient effects (more could have been done with this) and James Newton Howard’s score and a selection of 90s pop hits. The LFE channel doesn’t get much to do except reflect bass notes in some of the music. It’s the usual run-of-the-mill romantic comedy soundtrack, professional but not outstanding.
All of the bonus materials are presented in 1080p.
There are three deleted/extended scenes which must be played together and run 7 ½ minutes.
“An Actor’s Discussion” is a bit of a misnomer. Not only do stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway sing each other’s praises, but director Ed Zwick, producer Scott Stuber, and co-screenwriter Charles Randolph all rhapsodize about working together on this project. This puff piece runs 8 minutes.
“Beautifully Complex” spends 3 minutes with actress Anne Hathaway discussing her character from the movie.
“Reformed Womanizer” gives actor Jake Gyllenhaal a chance to talk about the differences and similarities he has to the character he plays in the movie. It runs 3 ½ minutes.
“Selling Love & Other Drugs” has co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Hank Azaria, and Josh Gad along with director Edward Zwick, producer Scott Stuber, and original book author Jamie Reidy discussing how pharmaceutical reps accomplish their goals by using charm and seduction. This runs 3 ¼ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc is BD-Live ready and offers Live LookUp as well as the bonus feature “An Actor’s Discussion” on the web. There is no exclusive content for this title.
There are promo trailers for Black Swan, 127 Hours, Casino Jack, Conviction, and Never Let Me Go.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Love & Other Drugs could have been a much more interesting comedy-drama that what has eventually emerged. Charismatic leading players do what they can with the erratic comic and dramatic material, but a shorter running time, fewer irritating characters, and more genuine dramatic development between the two leads would have enhanced this potentially interesting look at the world of prescription drugs.