Ann Hornaday reviews 'Love & Other Drugs'

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 10:08 PM

Give Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway this much: They have the best eyes in the business.

That's the most cheering takeaway from "Love & Other Drugs," a jagged little pill of a movie from baby boomer avatar Ed Zwick ("thirtysomething"). Here Zwick turns his attention to Millennials riding the financial bubble at the turn of the 21st century. We all know how that turned out, and the retrospective bitterness finally curdles what might have been a quirkily of-its-time love story. "Love & Other Drugs" plays like a grotesque group portrait of pigs at the trough. (The movie is loosely based on Jamie Reidy's memoir "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.")

And none of those pigs is feeding more blithely than Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal), a charming rake and underachiever who becomes a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer; during his rounds he meets Maggie (Hathaway), a spiky bohemian whose spiky, elbows-out demeanor belies a meltingly soft center. It's a character Hathaway proved adept at channeling in "Rachel Getting Married," and here she exploits Maggie's contradictions to the hilt, reveling in her unkempt overalls and dirty feet while maintaining perfectly curled hair. When her preternaturally lambent brown eyes meet Gyllenhaal's big blues, it's like a standoff between the genetically super-gifted ("Whose! Chromosomes! Will! Win!").

As a couple with deep commitment issues (hers far more sympathetically motivated than his), Gyllenhaal and Hathaway generate a simmering erotic heat, and when the story takes a serious turn, she especially keeps things tartly crisp and safely out of "Love Story" melodrama.

Despite some grave challenges, Maggie emerges as only the warmblooded empath in a pit of vipers, each of whom is on an aggressive path of greed, sexual manipulation and ego gratification.

The supporting characters, who range from slimy to merely off-putting, include Stan (Hank Azaria), an ethically challenged physician, and Bruce (Oliver Platt), Jamie's mentor-slash-competitor at Pfizer. But the most loathsome of the pack is Jamie's porcine brother Josh (Josh Gad), a slovenly tech millionaire who somehow can't afford his own place when his wife throws him out.

"Love & Other Drugs" admittedly features a terrific Hail Mary of a climactic scene. But too often the moral of this story seems to be "Love means never having to say you."

Love & Other Drugs r ½ (113 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive profanity and some drug material.

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