Wanting to always buck the trend of how I write reviews, let’s start with an all-encapsulating conclusive sentence. Sex and other Drugs is a very run of the mill romantic dramedy that wears many different hats throughout its run length. If that’s quite enough for you then you can stop reading now I suppose; if however it has you intrigued (as was the intention) then read on!
Let’s start at the beginning. To start with L&OD (even copying and pasting the full title seems like too much effort) is an all out rom-com. Jake Gyllenhaal (Jamie) is a young go getter who starts work for a pharmaceutical company and is good at two things; making people buy stuff and sexing girls. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out that in the medical business, the latter helps exponentially with the former. All is well with the world and Jamie has a very base (albeit sexy) lifestyle; that is until he meets Anne Hathaway (Maggie).
At this point it occurs to me like I could literally be reading this off of the back of a cereal box, it’s that generic…
With Maggie’s introduction though, the film takes an unexpected turn and changes style completely. Sure the goings on are still standard romantic dramedy fare (girl hates guy, guy eventually convinces girl to go out with him, neither want anything serious, it becomes serious, inevitable complications) but the way in which it delivers these standard occurrences differs majorly to the norm because of two things. Anne Hathaway’s boobs.
I was relatively surprised the first time she whips one out at the doctor’s surgery, but after about ten minutes of them coming out at every opportunity I was begging for her to put them away (for context here, I was in the cinema with my sister…). This in conjunction with the frequency and semi graphic nature of Jamie and Maggie’s many forays into sexy time over the next half an hour or so leaves the second “part” of this movie (or hat if you want to keep that analogy going) feeling more akin to soft core porn than anything else.
Now for the drama. Maggie’s character has an extremely severe case of Parkinson’s disease, and whilst this is introduced alongside her character earlier in the move, nothing more than passing reference is made to it until now. That’s all well and good, but the manner in which the subject is approached is a little more than heavy handed; over the course of the next twenty minutes we see Maggie degenerate massively and the focus turns to Parkinson’s itself rather than the characters affected by it. I can’t help but feel that the drama in this kind of movie should derive from conscious choices made by the characters, rather than circumstances which they prove only to be passengers to. There’s no dispute from me here about the gravity of Parkinson’s but I remain to be convinced that a movie of L&OD’s ilk is the right place to jump on the soapbox and try to raise mass awareness of the disease in such a serious fashion. Admirable though the message may be, it feels massively misplaced.
This is further compounded by L&OD’s next hat where everything gets a little stupid (thought it best to bring some levity back; we’re getting a little too serious here!). The fourth part rolls around on the back of some conflict between the two leads and the introduction of Viagra – oh hadn’t I mentioned that this film is set in the mid nineties? Well other than Jamie’s constant use of his pager you wouldn’t notice it; as such we’ll pay it no further reference…
The film steps back into really obvious comedy territory here and makes nothing but pithy erection jokes until way past when they’re already boring. Speaking contextually, the inclusion of Viagra proves to be an odd step as seemingly this is the influencing factor in setting the film in the nineties, which in itself adds nothing to the movie; it could just as easily have been set in “any time” and Viagra replaced with “any drug” and it wouldn’t have felt any different – arguments here are that Viagra serves to embody Jamie’s poorer qualities but that doesn’t really hold up when ten minutes later Viagra is all but forgotten. Whether or not the decision to include Viagra was a good one, the whole section feels limp (PUN!); the comedy is about ten years too late and isn’t strong enough to hold its own, especially against the juxtaposition with the ill advised drama.
Finally the film comes full circle and goes back to generic roots; guy realises error of his ways, goes pathetically average lengths to win girl back, waits around for a bit, wins girl back and they live happily ever after. There’s very little in the way of character development; Maggie is still just as much a moody bitch as she ever was and although Jamie sleeps around a little less, he still went through extremely selfish measures to get exactly what he wanted. There are some other characters that crop up throughout but no one does anything I can even really be bothered talking about. Vanilla does not even go halfway to describing the rest of the cast.
Reflecting on it, it almost seems like someone involved decided that rather than taking the constituent elements of what makes a romantic dramedy (romance, drama and comedy) and, as is standard for this kind of film, interspersing them throughout the course of the movie in equal measure; they decided that the best idea was to make their film by throwing together a huge slice of each. None of these parts is any worse than the others, but in the same breath none of them are any better either.
What we’re left with then is a movie that is only as strong as the sum of its parts; the truth could be said of any movie, but these parts feel so fragmented and disparate that other than the fact Maggie and Jamie appear in most scenes there really isn’t any cohesion to the film as a whole. The New Year is typically a weak time for cinema with one or two decent releases and a lot of other offerings that prove to be too weak to fill any of the movie calendar’s most prized slots. Love and Other Drugs is one such movie; it’s not terrible but (quite rightly) it won’t set the world on fire either. If you’re hankering for something right now that vaguely fits the rom-com mould then it’s fairly watchable but entirely forgettable. With the exception of that chest. Naturally.