Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

Love and Other Drugs begins as a typical romantic comedy, albeit of a particularly sexualized type, since the protagonist Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a lothario who also happens to be on the cutting edge of Viagra marketing in the mid 1990s. Love is a drug for Jamie and he is also a salesman for a drug that produces erections, which makes him even more popular with both men and women. However, there are two peculiarities in the movie’s relationship with reality. The first concerns the drug manufacturer Pfizer, the appearance of which does not simply conform to the practice of product placement, whereby corporations pay to have their wares appear in films. Pfizer plays a major role both with regard to the anti-depressant Zoloft, which Jamie markets (in competition with Prozac) early in the film, and later of course with the appearance of Viagra. One might think that the machinations of drug salesmen for particular companies might be presented in a more veiled manner, with the names of the manufacturers and drugs disguised but easily parsed, but this is not the case. The other bit of sobering reality is the turn of plot whereby Jamie’s romantic interest Maggie (Anne Hathaway) turns out to be suffering from early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Suddenly Love and Other Drugs turns into a darker piece of popular entertainment, namely Love Story, another tale of romance interrupted by disease. Speaking in terms of the drug of popular entertainment and escape, the difference between these two films lies in the particular cocktail that is being offered. It’s as if we were mixing two previously incompatible substances, beer and wine—in this case sex comedy and melodrama—and then adding some sort of reality twizzler to produce a new, exotic drink.

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