For all of the work Love and Other Drugs puts into its key relationship, it completely blows it in the end. Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are tremendous together, and then this script forces Gyllenhaal to drive halfway cross country to reunite with the girl of his dreams for no reason other than that’s what these movies do. It could not be more sappy, cliché, or predictable.
Before that though, this is actually a good one. It’s all because of Gyllenhaal and Hathaway who truly seem to have something between them. It doesn’t hurt than they spend most of their screen time naked in bed with each other, turning a mere quickie into passion with the help of a few edits. These two love each other so much, it’s almost nauseating.
There are complications though, and it’s far more complex than the typical argument that ignites these on-screen break-ups. Hathaway’s character has early onset Parkinson’s, leaving her with good and bad days. Gyllenhaal is an increasingly successful pharmaceutical rep whose on the job stresses only add strain to the relationship.
Between all of the heartbreak, there is a comedy though, and it’s a funny one. The scathing satire of the the drug companies efforts to push their products will likely flabbergast an international audience who wouldn’t understand US healthcare. The sad thing is satire only exists because of a basis of truth, and Love and Other Drugs doesn’t exactly hold back, set in the late ’90s during the Viagra boom.
The script carries some witty lines as well, Hathaway’s character given a sarcastic side that is rarely hidden from view. Gyllenhaal too makes some dramatic moves as he tries to one-up a rival salesman, even inadvertently helping a homeless man find a job through Prozac.
Love uses its time well, running longer than a typical romantic comedy, but then again, it’s also half drama as well. It develops characters and people, someone to care for. Even if you know it’s coming, you do want to see the guy driving down the highway to express his feelings. Sure, the stupidity and clichés are noted, but what comes before actually feels genuine. That’s the difference.
Fox’s AVC encode for this romantic romp is all over the place. Videophiles will not be driving endlessly to track this one down. The problems lie with a sharpness consistency, or lack thereof. Whereas one shot appears with startling definition and clarity, the next loses it all for a light softness that is just enough to break down detail. It’s a distraction when it becomes something you’re looking for, Hathaway not smoothed over, but seemingly shot on a regular basis with softer lighting/lens.
The grain structure is not at fault, a pleasing film-like look that is resolved cleanly by this encode. One or two spikes are noted, those shots quick to pass without any significant issue. There is little to push the compression aside from a few early scenes outside in a downpour, the rain falling causing no artifacting which is a clear sign this was mastered well.
Directorial choices though, well, that’s something no encode can fix. Flesh tones here are downright hideous, given that overly bronzed hue that makes people look like they have more in common with statues than living beings. Rest assured there are plenty of teal backdrops to counter that too, especially the doctor’s offices which all apparently carry the same shades of teal.
Black levels are excellent, no doubts here. Contrast is well controlled too. Daylight exteriors are entirely natural, the church at 1:03:02 wonderfully refined. That shot is an example of what this transfer can do when it reaches its peak. Shame it doesn’t always stay there.
Love and Other Drugs is quite possibly the most routine romantic comedy audio design ever. There is one scene where it has any real chance to work and that’s at 7:15 during an outrageously over the top Pfizer presentation filled with fireworks. This is the sole chance for the subwoofer to do anything, and granted, it does well for itself. Each pop is greeted by a nice, smooth, clean rumble.
The rest is left to the soundtrack, typically understated for effect. Any music barely reaches the surrounds, or at least not enough for the rears to be prominent. Dialogue strictly stays in the center even during montages that pan across the viewpoint. Not exactly thrilling, but there’s nothing wrong with it either.
Fox does not send screeners in time for release, so this is based on a rental exclusive that has no extras.