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updated: 11/23/2010 11:54 AM

Hathaway, Gyllenhaal make drama, not just another 'Love' story

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  • Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls for Maggie (Anne Hathaway) in "Love and Other Drugs."

      Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls for Maggie (Anne Hathaway) in "Love and Other Drugs."

  • Video: 'Love and Other Drugs' trailer

 
 

Edward Zwick's romantic drama "Love and Other Drugs" comes in three main parts: a torrid love affair, the explosive 1996 success of a new drug called Viagra, and a man's search for a cure to his lover's degenerative disease.

These disparate segments feel as if they've been rudely shoehorned into a single movie, and it falls to the magnetic performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway to make it all click, and click it does.

Zwick dumps Hollywood's false and pretentious boudoir modesty where steamed-up stars keep the sheets around their necks (for females) and stomachs (for males).

Instead, Zwick opts for plenty of bold, yet tasteful nudity, so much of it that it might be jarring at first because it violates our chaste Hollywood expectations.

Give it time. Soon, the nudity becomes part of the romantic landscape, as it is, usually, in real life.

Based on James Reidy's book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," Zwick's movie follows the relationship between a shallow, fast-talking and inept pharmaceutical salesman named Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) and an attractive, independent woman named Maggie Murdock (Hathaway).

He pretends to be an assistant to a potential customer, Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria), so he can sneak a peek at her breast during an exam.

She figures out the deception and clobbers Jamie with her bag. Ah, love at first fight.

Maggie and Jamie engage in a zesty, physical affair that she insists involves no commitments, a position usually adopted by the man.

Jamie soon discovers that Maggie avoids commitment because she's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a plot point scrupulously never mentioned in commercials and theatrical trailers.

Zwick, most known for historical epics such as "Glory" and "The Last Samurai," returns to his "thirtysomething" roots with a personal, character-driven story offering zero good male role models.

Jamie's boss (a joyously conniving Oliver Platt) is a cheat and a liar. Azaria's physician uses his job as babe bait at the bars. Jamie's unkempt, rich technogeek bro Josh (Josh Gad) has been beamed in from a Judd Apatow rom-com rip-off.

On a sad note, the late Jill Clayburgh makes her penultimate film appearance as Jamie's unhappy mom.

Thankfully, Zwick's "Love" is not the insipid, similarly themed 1970's "Love Story," even though it contains the overused, wincing cornball cliché, "You changed my life... forever!"

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