There’s a word for people who are very clever at manipulating other people emotionally while feeling nothing themselves: that word is “sociopath”. And maybe the romantic comedy about a couple of sociopaths is where the Hollywood expression of the romantic comedy genre has been heading all along. Perhaps it was only a matter of time.
I can’t think of a better word than “sociopath” to describe Jake Gyllenhaal’s pharmaceutical drug rep Jamie Randall, who’s effortlessly able to romance females from 8 to 80, in order to get them to buy from him or to have sex with him.
Anne Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock displays a slightly less obvious sociopathy. I actually figured Maggie for as big a player as Jamie, because when we first meet her, she has a hugely suspicious story to tell a doctor she doesn’t know (Hank Azaria) about how her apartment was burgled and she needs all these emergency prescriptions. Surely, I imagined, she’s a scam artist, a drug-seeker of some sort for some nefarious reasons of her own.
But no: She really does have an illness ... and that’s what makes her a player. She lurves sex, but relationships between the sick and the healthy simply don’t work, she knows ... because — as we see — she turns into a huge bitch the moment someone starts caring about her. We’re supposed to feel bad for her, but her illness has nothing to do with it: She’s simply an awful person, and would be if she were 100 percent healthy, too.
Screenwriter Charles Randolph has made a career out of shallow, faux-serious studio films including The Life of David Gale (faux-serious about the death penalty) and The Interpreter (faux-serious about racially informed politics). Terrible as those movies were, they at least put forth a veneer of significance that was consistent with what they wanted you to believe they cared about.
Here, though, are four different movies crammed into one. There’s the romantic comedy, the gross-out comedy (the year is 1997 and Jamie works for Pfizer and Pfizer has just released Viagra and Viagra gives dudes four-hour boners and four-hour boners are hilarious), the earnest drama about health care reform and overpriced pharmaceuticals, and an arthouse commentary on corporate sociopathy.
Love and Other Drugs is an even bigger crock of shit than Hollywood romantic comedies tend to be. There’s an achievement in that, I suppose. But it’s not a good one.