Monday, 24 January 2011

Zwick’s overcompensation, Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, biopics in disguise, Love & Other Drugs

I often feel out of the loop when it comes to certain fads, films or actors but few make me more perplexed than Hathaway, whose appeal I’m constantly try to extrapolate. So, it’s not surprising that I entered Love & Other Drugs with a sense of trepidation a bit disconcerted about a potentially schmaltzy love fest with her. Something about Love & Other Drugs just sort of ticked me off from the inception. From a very pop-ish opening sequence to the token dinner with the quirky (but brilliant) family where our protagonist is (but of course) the black seep of the family just plays a bit too on the nose, making me want to get up and slap Edward Zwick. Jamie is a typical manwhore who takes up the glamorous (insert sarcasm) job of selling prescription drugs and who happens to fall for a woman with early Parkinson’s – Maggie, and that’s essentially what Love & Other Drugs is about. The thing is, Jake is handling it all wonderfully – but that feeling of overcompensation is difficult to shake off – especially when Hathaway enters the film in typical eccentric fashion for an annoyingly cloying meet-cute, and then somewhere between that the film takes a turn for the better. Zwick is still trying too hard, the nudity which isn’t gratuitous but just screams “90s youth”.
Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are remarkable together, and even the writing – for some time at least – still overly precise but getting more hits than misses this time around. It’s not difficult to pinpoint what makes me interested in Hathaway’s work here. It’s not the best thing she’s done – even if I’m on the Rosemarie DeWitt bandwagon I’ll accede that she’s fine in Rachel Getting Married; but as Maggie I’m finally able to see what’s winsome about her without actor-ly tics or overemphasised movements. Even her previous comedic work I’m never willing to believe there’s anything (authentically) charming about her, but she really is just the sweetest thing here. Yes, she’s getting by on what seems to be just her natural charm but that’s precisely what works about the entire affair. It’s the sort of role that depends on someone with that sort of winsome air to – and Zwick’s lucky enough that the two work so well together. This makes me that much more annoyed with him when the film hits the seventy minute mark and turns into something dangerously close to a hot mess. Zwick decided to turn it into something dangerously close to a standard biopic as we watch the very noble Maggie push Jamie away because she's too wonderful to allow him the horror of caring for her in sickness. The fact that this is based on fact doesn't make him less culpable, it's the fact that Zwick approaches this so so little sincerity especially when the shift is such an about-face from his crazy antics earlier.
The only reason that the middle portion of Love & Other Drugs manages to work is because Zwick doesn’t seem too interested in making a grand statement about life, or preaching to when his entire technique questionable. However, it turns out that his overreaching arc is just an attempt to make a judgement on Jamie’s life. It was as if Zwick, with his palpable “youth-friendly” appeal just this side of hip was intent on making his Jamie that sort of slightly jerk-y cool guy that we’re forced to love, and it immediately reminded me of Boyle’s ADD direction in 127 Hours. Both directors want to have it both ways, we’re supposed to love this guy but concede that he’s offensive. In the battle of male leads, though, Zwick’s approaches prevails because he’s willing to prevent his flawed antihero as a flawed antihero, and even if he ends up glorifying him in the end that’s less a judgement on his direction and more a question for human psychology. But, as the film meanders to its end Love & Other Drugs becomes more and more cringe worthy, never quite descending to absolute terribleness but still ultimately off-putting. Although, I suppose my jadedness prevents me from deferring to the simplicity of it all, the fact that Zwick never decides what he wants hs film to be opting to jump around like a psycho irresolute novice - which he is not - is neither comforting nor original, though I think he thinks so - though I'll admit, there were times he had me more than a little interested, shame he couldn't keep it up.



Walter L. Hollmann said...

Yes, it all is rather "hm", isn't it? I just didn't buy the brother's "revelation" at the end: "I realized I don't want your life!" Wow. It's like the writers realized they forgot to have a change-of-heart scene and just threw it in there. That character and the Bus Finale compromised the film for me, though tbh it was kind of trite to begin with.

CMrok93 said...

The overall chemistry between the two is what makes this film a real watch because although the script kind of lets us down, we still rely on these two to bring out a genuine romantic feel for this movie.

Anonymous said...


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

walter so true.

dan you're right, it's seeing her shine in this on-and-off mess that makes me realise how much of a treasure anne is.