Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Love and Other Drugs

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:Adult
MPAA Rating:Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material
Profanity:Extremely strong and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Extremely graphic and explicit sexual references and situations and nudity, pornography
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking (including drinking to deal with stress, drunkenness), drugs, marijuana
Violence/Scariness:Tense confrontations, illness, brief violence
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:November 24, 2010
DVD Release Date:March 1, 2011

“Love and Other Drugs” is the cure for the common movie, a smart, sexy, touching romance and a thoughtful exploration of a remarkable time that illuminates some of our most vital contemporary concerns.
“Ask your doctor about…” ads began appearing in magazines in the 1990’s. Before that, medication was a highly technical product requiring extensive medical expertise. But then pharmaceutical companies were allowed to advertise directly to consumers. This not coincidentally coincided with a flood of new drugs to make you not just get better but feel better, as in experience less anxiety and have a brighter outlook. Who wouldn’t want to ask their doctor about that?
And all of this not coincidentally coincided with the go-go years of pharmaceutical sales jobs. As the movie points out, this was the only entry level position in the world where you could begin by making six figures. It was like the California Gold Rush; an all’s fair era of claim-jumping and anything goes marketing tactics that included pens and opera tickets, lavish “medical conferences” at exotic beach and golf course resorts, generous “consulting fees” for doctors, beauty queen sale reps, and goodies for the medical staff. Anything to entice the people with the prescription pads to order up lots of Brand X instead of Brand Y.
Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is his family’s embarrassing failure. Co-writer/director Edward Zwick (“thirtysomething,” “Now and Again,” “Glory”) brings in 70’s stars the late Jill Clayburgh and George Segal as his parents, a nice touch. His father and sister are doctors. His brother is a millionaire. He was fired from selling electronic equipment (a boombox playing “Two Princes” nails the era in a nanosecond) for having sex with his manager’s girlfriend. So he takes a job in drug sales at Pfizer, goes through training, and gets a job selling mood elevators in the Ohio River valley. He has a lot of competition from the Prozac guys, and then comes Viagra. Maggie (Anne Hathaway) is a free-spirited artist with early onset Parkinson’s who takes buses of elderly people to Canada to get affordable prescription drugs. She sizes him up immediately as someone who is constantly looking for meaningless sex “for an hour or two of relief from the pain of being you” because she feels the same way.
Meaningless sex works out fine for a while, but then of course it gets complicated as Maggie has to cope with Parkinson’s and Jamie learns more about the consequences of the drug marketing. We see less and less of their bodies and their sexual encounters as we see more about what is going on with them emotionally.
Both the relationship at the heart of the story and the environment around them are absorbing and insightful. Almost as an aside, we see the benefits of this category of drugs as a homeless man who dumpster dives for the rival Prozac Jamie throws away literally cleans up his act and applies for a job. In a very moving scene Maggie happens on a Parkinson’s support group. She is overjoyed with the connection she feels to the other patients (played by real people coping with Parkinson’s) while Jamie is daunted by a glimpse of the future from a caregiver.
On one level, it works as a story about the real leap of faith each of us goes through in entering into a long-term relationship — faith not just in the other person but in our own capacity for “in sickness and in health,” the terror of not being known, the greater terror of being known and being rejected. The health care issues are presented in an even-handed but very personal way, not just through Maggie’s experience but through the doctor character superbly played by the immeasurably gifted Hank Azaria. He shows us a man who has his own lapses but is terribly frustrated with a system that squeezes him on every side, compromising treatment. Gylenhaal and Hathaway (getting along much better then they did as unhappy spouses in “Brokeback Mountain”) give performances of wit, courage, grace, and generosity. RX prn.

Parents should know that this film has extremely graphic and explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, porn, very strong language, drinking (including getting drunk to deal with stress), and drug use.
Family discussion: How are Maggie and Jamie alike? Who benefits from the kind of pharmaceutical marketing shown in the film? What does Maggie learn from the patient group? How have things changed since the era portrayed in the movie?
If you like this, try: “Bull Durham” and (from the same director) “About Last Night”

  • David

    It’s hard to believe you give an A rating to such a sexually explicit and profanity-ridden flick, while presenting yourself as “a parent’s eye on media, culture, and values.”

  • Nell Minow

    David, I am sorry the grading system was not clear to you. The grade is an evaluation of the overall quality of the movie with regard to its intended audience. As I make very clear in my review, the A- grade is for an adult audience. Just because I have a parent’s eye does not mean that I only give good grades to movies for small children. I include in my reviews the information parents of children, middle schoolers, and teens and even viewers without children who want to be comfortable with what they buy tickets for can make an informed choice. For an adult audience, I believe this movie represents an excellent approach to culture and values.
    If you have any other questions or concerns, let me know and I will be happy to respond.

  • Shary

    Hi Nell,
    I don’t consider myself a prude, but I have to admit that I find an hour or so of squirming, panting, too-realistic screen sex about as entertaining as last year’s news. Moreover, I frequently go to movies with my mildly handicapped adult son and try to avoid films that are embarrassingly graphic. I guess I’ll give this one a miss. Good review, however.

  • Shary

    Nell, could you tell me what the words are for that we have to duplicate in order to post a message? Mostly they are illegible. I had to try three times to send my comment.

  • Nell Minow

    Shary, that’s exactly why I provide the information I do — so that people can make informed decisions about what they and their families buy tickets to see. Sounds like this one is not for you and your son. You should go to see “The King’s Speech,” opening soon, one of the best films of the year.
    The awful system we have of typing those words in is intended to prevent spam. As it is, there is a constant battle against sellers of goods and services and outright con artists who post fake comments and are increasingly clever about making them look legitimate. The “captcha” is a huge pain for everyone, but it does keep out the automatically generated spam comment posts. I do apologize and hope we will come up with something better.

  • Nancy O

    Nell, I agree with your review, and your grade! And, I am glad you review movies for adults, and not just kids, since there are adults in my family! It was nice to see Anne Hathaway playing her most grown up role to date, and do it with character and class as she shed whatever might have been left of her Disney image, even with the adult situations she was in. The story was excellently written…and I didn’t feel the sex was gratuitous…they way it was depicted (as you said..much less as their feelings were being explored) it showed the growth and development of the characters. I thought the ending was wonderful too. What I didn’t enjoy was reading Jake Gyllenhal’s media comments about the sex in the it made him seem a lot less mature than his character turned out to be. Thanks again for a great review.

  • jestrfyl

    This sounds like a really good movie. But i guess I won;t show it for our summer Movie matinees at church. (We have an AED and I am trained to use it, but I would not want to have to because of a movie).Thanks for the interesting review – I might have skipped this movie otherwise.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment AndyB

    It’s great to see that the fearless Movie Mom hasn’t lost her nerve!
    As you clearly point out, it’s not for the kiddies, and some adults won’t want to see it either, for the sex alone. But it’s a well-written thoughtful review, with plenty of content warning, and that’s your job!

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Andy!

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