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November 24, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Critics invariably complain that the latest romantic comedy to hit the megaplex is formulaic and cliché-ridden. That’s not the case with their reviews of Love & Other Drugs. Quite the opposite. As Christopher Kelly puts it in the Dallas Morning News: “Rarely has a movie strained so hard to seem original and come off so awkward in the process.” True, there’s plenty of screwball romance and artfully photographed love-making between stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in the movie — but there’s also an effort to muckrake the pharmaceutical industry. And Hathaway’s character? She’s beginning to show the early-onset effects of Parkinson’s disease and meeting people whose lives it has devastated. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that there are some intensely dramatic scenes in the movie that simply don’t fit well in a romantic comedy. In particular there’s a scene in which the husband of a Parkinson’s victim tells Gyllenhaal’s character how the disease may eventually affect Hathaway’s character. “After this scene, the movie has definitively introduced a note that makes the rest seem trivial,” Ebert writes, adding that director Ed Zwick “gives that scene its full weight, no matter that it’s not a good fit in his movie.” A.O. Scott in the New York Times concludes that the film “almost works,” and he admires the “blend of melodrama, low comedy and graceful wit” of the first hour, but suggests it becomes undone in the second, Peter Howell in the Toronto Star puts it more bluntly: “The real problem here is that Zwick and his writing partner Marshall Herskovitz … really don’t know what movie they’re trying to make.” Several critics agree that the love scenes between Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are pretty steamy. But they’re overshadowed, they say, by the knowledge that Hathaway’s character has been struck with an incurable disease. As Kyle Smith notes in the New York Post, “Porno plus Parkinson’s don’t quite add up to sexy fun.” Indeed, Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune suggests that Love & Other Drugs might have turned out more satisfyingly if it had dispensed with the com and focused on the rom. “I wish director and co-writer Edward Zwick’s film had the guts to treat Love & Other Drugs like a grown-up relationship story, rather than a relationship story periodically shoved aside by a lame and lamely raunchy romantic comedy for dummies,” he writes. The film does have several admirers, however, among them Betsy Sharkey, who writes in the Los Angeles Times, “In director Ed Zwick’s world, love hurts. It may be funny, charming, poignant and sexy, and Love & Other Drugs is all that too, but at some point it stings like astringent on a fresh scrape. Like real life, or at least real enough to make for a very nice change of pace in the romantic comedy world.” And Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel remarks that the fact that the movie works as well as it does “makes you wonder why there haven’t been more Hollywood romances of this quality.”


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