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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Love and Other Drugs

March 11th, 2011

Love and Other Drugs - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / Digital Copy Combo Pack

Love and Other Drugs was a film that had some measure of Awards Season Buzz before it was released. Both Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal were Oscar nominated actors, the co-writer / director, Edward Zwick, won an Oscar in 1999 and was nominated again in 2001. However, while there was buzz (and a couple Golden Globe nominations) there were no awards. Was it unfairly overlooked by other Awards Season voters? Was it another case of the Golden Globes rewarding an undeserving film? Or somewhere in-between.

The Movie

We meet Jake Gyllenhaal as he's getting fired, again. He's the screw-up in the family with a doctor-turned-professor father, a sister who is also a doctor and brother who dropped out of med school but created a medical software company that sold for millions. The only thing he's good at is getting women to sleep with him. His brother offers to get him setup as a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer

He gets the job, is assigned Zoloft and Zithromax and is sent to work the Ohio River Valley with his more experienced partner, Bruce. Bruce needs Jamie to meet quotas, because they need to make quotas for a shot at a promotion in Chicago, which is the big time. However, Jamie's career as a salesman gets off to a rough start and he gets nowhere. That is until he starts using his seductive charms to sleep with the receptionist of the most powerful doctor in the area in order to get access.

It is during one of these visits that he meets Maggie, a 28-year old patient. Despite the initial deception in their meeting (Jamie was pretending to be in intern at the time and during the course of the check-up, she was partially naked) they begin a relationship. Of course, being a romantic comedy, there are obstacles in their relationship. (I won't discuss the details, as this is the only real variable in a romantic comedy.)

In the meantime, his career gets a huge boost when Pfizer puts out a new erectile dysfunction drug called Viagra. He suddenly goes from struggling to meet his quotas every month, to meeting his yearly quotas in a single month.

I'm of two minds about this movie. On the one hand, both Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are amazingly talented and charming separately, while together they have great chemistry. That's really the most important quality a romantic comedy needs to be successful. On the other hand, there's a scene in which Jamie, Bruce, and Josh are driving in the car and I was thinking to myself, 'Why is the blue screen work in this scene so obvious? ... Wow, I'm really not emotionally invested in this movie.' And this is certainly true. I never became truly emotionally invested in this movie and I think there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, Jamie starts out as a complete ass. He's a complete ass for the first 20 minutes of the movie, which is how long it takes till Anne Hathaway's character shows up. By that time I had really stopped caring about him. By the time Trey, his career / romantic competition punches him, my first reaction was, 'Bout time. I'm surprised that didn't happen sooner.' That's never a good sign. Sure, he does have his redemption moment, and no, that's not really a spoiler when it comes to this type of movie. But for me the damage was done.

The other major issue was the shift in tone. Not only does the film move between harmless romantic comedy mode to serious medical drama and back again, it also tries to combine the romance with social commentary on the pharmaceutical industry, but only in a half-assed way.

Again, the chemistry and the charm of the two leads mostly make up for these problems, but they do turn what could have been a great movie into one that's just good, for the genre.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include some deleted scenes, an 8-minute making of featurette, two shorter featurettes with the two lead actors talking about their characters, and finally a featurette on the writer of the book that inspired the movie. I know the film missed expectations at the box office, and sometimes that results in fewer special features on the DVD release, but that's still not enough.

The Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled with live look up, which is rather pointless most of the time, and a single, short video clip of Jake Gyllenhaal talking about his favorite scene. Again, not a huge improvement. If you like digital copies of the movie, then the price difference isn't too bad.

As for the film's technical specs, there are mostly strong. There were a few scenes where softness was an issue, but that was likely an artistic choice more than anything. Colors were strong, blacks were deep, there were no signs of compression errors, etc. The audio was clean, but relatively uncomplicated. Dialogue was always clear, while the surround sound speakers were used enough (mostly for music and ambiance) that is didn't feel bare.

The Verdict

Love and Other Drugs is much more adult than most romantic comedies, both in terms of tone and in terms of nudity. I appreciate trying to be more than just a simple date movie, but the film's uneven tone hurt, as does the weak attempt at looking deep into the pharmaceutical industry. That said, it is still worth checking out for most. If the DVD or the Blu-ray has substantial extras, it would have been worth picking up. As it is, call it a solid rental, maybe a soft purchase.

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Filed under: Video Review, Love and Other Drugs