L’amour and other Non-Food Items

In other words, Love and Other Drugs (2010).  Directed by Edward Zwick, this unapologetic chick-flick features a sick Anne Hathaway and a self-preserving and self-under-appreciating Jake Gyllenhaal as young adults counter-intuitively drawn to and in need of each other.  This premise needs no more description or contextualizing, at least the previews would suggest as much.  May I take the time to praise the poster?  Not sure about Jake’s hand-on-mouth, but for the sole reason that his name is on his side of the image and Anne’s name is on her side of the image, I’m praising it.
SgurdA

And yet, the movie itself is both much more and much less eventful.  Jamie and Maggie (Jake and Anne, respectively) aren’t just young people who meet, explore, enjoy, then question the unmistakable, consequential chemistry they share.   Jamie is a college drop-out whose days of high-end sound equipment have been cut short due to unprofessional behavior on the job.  A younger brother hooks him up with an entry level job at Pfizer.  In what could almost be a thematic cousin to Up in the Air , Love and Other Drugs sets itself up as a meaning-of-life journey for its male protagonist.

Major spoilers ahead.  Highlight relevant words at your own discretion.  Even when Anne Hathaway makes her first appearance in the plot and introduces the romance factor and the movie reveals that her character has stage one Parkinson’s disease, the narrative could still be about Jamie…until it stops being about him or even her.  Although the plot focuses on both of them and compels the audience to ask itself how much it could sacrifice just to be with someone they loved, there doesn’t seem to be a point to the movie for me.

Had the film skewed more towards the inner workings of the pharmaceutical industry vis-a-vis the medical profession, it would’ve been reminiscent of Thank You For Smoking.  Unfortunately, Love and Other Drugs would have to become an entirely different movie and perhaps too satirical for the intentions of writers Zwick, Charles Randolph, and Marshall Herskovitz.  If the film skewed more towards Maggie’s condition within the context of the mid 1990s (or changed to another illness), then we’d be faced with Dying Young or Autumn in New York.  Were it the latter, we’d have to hypothesize as to whether or not the writers would let Maggie live, die, or either depending on viewer interpretation of the final scene.   In case you’re wondering, it’s not a life or death ending.

I neither like nor dislike Love and Other Drugs.  I love Anne Hathaway even more now–and not just because she has a lovely body that gets more screen time than one might deem necessary for narrative purposes.*  Jake Gyllenhaal was quite charming…but I didn’t care about the movie itself.  As I walked out towards my car after the film ended, I kept thinking, “But how can Jake’s character apply for med school? He hasn’t graduated from college.  And why set the movie in the mid-9os.  What, so the filmmakers wouldn’t have to populate residences with flat screen Apple monitors? or have iPods, iPhones, and intelligent phones all over the place for authenticity?”

If you love Anne Hathaway—watch it.  If you’re neutral to her and don’t care for Jake Gyllenhaal, skip it.

Click here for other movie images.

*I thought the back-side nudity was much more relevant to the film’s story and theme as it reinforced that these two people are very comfortable with each other.  The two “only breasts” shots are used for more comedic purposes, which don’t backfire but can be read as gratuitous.  Not that the shape of her bosom would be a shocker for anyone that has seen Havoc.

10 thoughts on “L’amour and other Non-Food Items

  1. Philippe

    “……this unapologetic chick-flick……”

    I recently was in a discussion on another forum about Jill Clayburgh’s 1978 film, “An Unmarried Woman” – a serious film (therefore not a chick-flick) built around a female character who carries the film.

    I opined that such a film was unusual in 1978, and is as unusual now.

    Another participant in the discussion, a woman herself, agreed that a woman can rarely carry a film, and said that she was trying to understand why.

    I replied to her thus:

    Yours is a fascinating question, the answer to which may simply be, “follow the money”.

    It is obvious to me that most Hollywood films – with guns, explosives, special effects, cops, and all of that – are made with young male viewers in mind, no doubt because it is males who are the ultimate deciders on the types of films which are seen.

    While most males in a theatre are accompanied by a woman, she is usually the one who makes the compromise over what film to go out and see, so she agrees to see the films that her boyfriend wants to see, which is films with guns, explosives, special effects, cops, and all of that.

    Films that most young men won’t want to see are serious films carried by a female lead.

    An analogy is female-written novels – novels which it has been demonstrated that men won’t read. However, women are not averse to reading male-written novels.

    As with novels, so with film. Hence serious Hollywood films built around a female character will continue to be rare.

    Am I right?

    Reply
    1. sittingpugs/ Post author

      “An Unmarried Woman” – a serious film (therefore not a chick-flick) built around a female character who carries the film

      A film can be serious or fluffy, depressing or funny…and still be a chick flick. Love and Other Drugs relies more on Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance simply be due to his increased screen time. On the other hand, Rachel’s Getting Married was primarily carried by Anne Hathaway (even though Debra Winger stole the show for me). RGM is not a chick flick. Thematically, it’s as harsh and maybe depressing as Thelma and Louise, which is very much a chick flick.

      While there is little debate as to what makes a romantic comedy a romantic comedy, there isn’t such a popular consensus on what makes a chick flick a chick flick. Most romantic comedies (even the ones where the males are the protagonists and the females the antagonists) are chick flicks, but not all chick flicks are romantic comedies.

      The chick flick is more about demographics than genre, so your remarks about young males in or out of heterosexual coupledom is applicable. The chick flick would attract females of all ages as well as couples of the Baby Boomer generation. For instance, Coco Before Chanel, Young Victoria, any movie starring Diane Keaton in the 21st Century.

      The romantic/relationship comedy would likely attract females of all ages as well as couples of all ages. Anything starring Vince Vaughn or Cameron Diaz from the last few years.

      Then you’ve got other chick flicks that may only appeal to females of all ages. Mamma Mia the movie. You Again.

      With On Demand features on cable/satellite TV services and online streaming videos, the numbers may have altered in the last few years, but as far as opening weekend at the box office, male viewers between the ages of 18 and 35 consistently go to the theatre more so than women. I would say that on opening weekend, a man may be able to convince his lady friend to see a mindless piece of entertainment…and she can watch what she pleases with friends or family.

      I like to watch films on opening weekend. I watch movies of nearly every genre, though I have preferences (guilty pleasure or non-guilty pleasure). I’d say that when there aren’t more males than females in the audience, then the ratio is pretty even.

      As for:

      As with novels, so with film. Hence serious Hollywood films built around a female character will continue to be rare

      Even if you discount biopics, it’s not hard to list films that center on a female character. Yes, many of them are ensemble pieces or focus on a main character and a “wing person” type, but they’re not that rare.

      Just look up Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Annette Bening, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford on IMDB …. need I go on? ^_^

      Whether or not those characters themselves have to be confined by certain genre tropes or narrative formulas is another issue. No, they don’t all have to fall in love or be victims, or rise from the ashes. Sometimes, they can just be themselves.

      See The Exploding Girl.

      Reply
  2. Philippe

    As a little exercise, I listed the current films showing in Vancouver BC where I live, and tried to categorise them into which would appeal predominantly to males, or to females, or to both males/females.

    Here’s what I came up with.

    127 hours – About a male mountain climber – Male
    Burlesque – Young Woman Makes Her Way in Lounge Singing – Female
    Conviction – Woman Tries to Overturn brother’s murder conviction – Male/Female
    Due Date – road trip comedy – male/female
    Easy A – Female comedy – Female
    Fair Game – Action Thriller about Valerie Plame – Male/female
    Faster – Man Leaves prison and avenges murder of his brother – male
    For Colored Girls – Stories about black women – Female
    Hereafter – 2 men and 1 woman reflect on the afterlife – Male/female
    Inception – Sci Fi action – Male
    Inside Job – Inside the financial crisis – Male
    Jackass – daredevil comedy – male
    Life as We Know It – Family comedy – Male/female
    Love and Other Drugs – Romantic comedy – chickflick – female
    Monsters – Sci Fi about alien monsters – male
    Morning Glory – Romantic comedy – chick flick – female
    Never Let Me Go – Sci Fi – relationship oriented – male/female
    Next Three Days – Man tries to get innocent wife out of prison – male/female
    Other Guys – Action – male
    Paranormal Activity – Family experiences paranormal activity – male/female
    RED – Action, cops, CIA – male
    Saw – horror, violence – male
    Secretariat – About a horse – female
    Skyline – Sci fi thriller – male
    Social Network – about Mark Zuckerman – male/female
    The Town – psychological drama about bank robbers – male
    Unstoppable – Action thriller – male

    25 American films, of which:

    11 are male oriented (44%)
    6 are female oriented (24%)
    8 male/female (32%)

    Add 6 foreign films:

    Carlos – About Carlos the Jackal – Male
    Action Replay – Bollywood – female
    Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – woman charged with murder tries to prove innocence – male/female
    Golmaal 3 – family comedy – male/female
    Guzaarish – married nurse falls in love with disabled patient – female
    Man From Nowhere – action thriller – male

    31 films in total, of which:

    13 are male oriented (42%)
    8 are female oriented (26%)
    10 are male/female (32%)

    Reply
    1. sittingpugs Post author

      I haven’t heard of half of those foreign films, so I’ll take your assessment of it. My categorizing of the other titles based on my observations of the same films or similar films:

      Males 18 – 35
      Faster
      Jackass
      Other Guys
      The Town (I saw it and liked it a lot)

      Females 18 – 35
      Burlesque
      For Colored Girls
      Love and Other Drugs
      Saw 3D

      Males 18+ (surprisingly none)

      Females 18+
      Morning Glory

      Males and Females 18-35
      Easy A (Though, when I saw it, the audience included retirees)
      Fair Game
      Life as We Know It
      Monsters
      Paranormal Activity
      Skyline
      Social Network
      Unstoppable

      Males and Females 18+
      127 hours
      Conviction
      Due Date
      Hereafter
      Inception
      Inside Job
      Never Let Me Go
      Next Three Days
      RED
      Secretariat

      Reply
  3. Philippe

    In most of the instances where our categorisations were different, the films which I said were male oriented, you said would appeal equally to males and females.

    I had to base my categorisations on how the films are described by their marketers, since I’ve seen none of these films, of which, moreover, I plan to see no more than one or two. No doubt this is because I’m of a Certain Age.

    Incidentally, the woman I had spoken of – the one who was wondering why there were almost no films built around female characters – is, too, of a Certain Age.

    Since you are younger than that Certain Age, and so would have fingers pressed more firmly on the keys of the Zeitgeist than are mine, I have no choice but to accede to your gender categorisations of the above films.

    Reply
  4. Kavitha

    Garden State was the movie that came to mind when I saw previews for this one. Anne Hathaway is lovely and has beautiful hair juxtaposed with creamy white skin, but in person (as on late night shows) she’s almost a headache-inducing chatterbox. It progresses from slightly endearing to obnoxious. And something about her intonations in speaking kind of bother me. I think I probably like Natalie Portman more.

    Not sure, something about the previews made it come off as contrived – much like Garden State, or Juno. I still need to see Up in the Air. I actually want to see 127 hours. Sorry, that was not a logical progression of thoughts 🙂

    Reply
  5. Philippe

    When I saw *this news item* this evening, I was reminded of our exchange about Hollywood and gender.

    It would seem that Helen Mirren has views on this issue closer to mine than yours!!

    In one of my comments, I had said “….In most of the instances where our categorisations were different, the films which I said were male oriented, you said would appeal equally to males and females……..”

    In other words, today’s young women have bought into the male type films. Hence women are now more masculine in their filmic tastes.

    Women have thus been co-opted into the Hollywood male establishment view.

    What say you?

    Reply
    1. sittingpugs Post author

      In other words, today’s young women have bought into the male type films.

      Quoi? “bought in”? Ne suis pas en accord. A woman may capitulate and watch what the man wants to watch, she may even start to enjoy that which is marketed towards him, but people are allowed to have diverse film tastes…

      Creating the industry is one experience, consuming it is another. No doubt Helen Mirren has that extra POV.

      Reply

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