EMBARGOED. NOT to be published or broadcast until 10 p.m., all time zones, Tuesday, Nov. 23, Web postings included.
NEW YORK (CNS) — With a satire of the drug industry in the background and an excess of bare flesh to the fore, "Love & Other Drugs" (Fox) — a potentially touching romance about the ennobling effects of heartfelt ardor — goes thoroughly awry due to misguided values.
In adapting — and fictionalizing — Jamie Reidy’s 2005 memoir "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," director and co-writer (with Charles Randolph) Edward Zwick tells the tale of slick pharmaceuticals seller Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) and vulnerable artist Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway).
Smooth-talking womanizer Jamie and relationship-phobic Maggie — afflicted with early onset Parkinson’s disease, she’s afraid to become a burden to any potential partner — hook up for commitment-free sex. But gradually, despite themselves, they find their alley-cat connection deepening into love.
With Maggie recognizing qualities in self-doubting Jamie’s character that others around him fail to notice and with Jamie struggling to find the courage to offer Maggie a lifetime of support, the pair’s rise from hedonism has the makings of an engaging conversion story. Their initial high jinks, however, are not only intruded on in a needlessly graphic way, but also presented as perfectly acceptable, if not exactly ideal.
The script consistently confuses vulgarity with sexual frankness and seeks laughs by showcasing wayward behavior. Thus, crowds of extras clamor for their Viagra fix and Jamie plays the panderer for a prominent doctor (Hank Azaria) he’s trying to convince to purchase his wares. Doc repays the favor by inviting Jamie to an orgy.
All of this reaches a queasy low point in a scene that plays for laughs the fact that Jamie’s brother Josh (Josh Gad) — who has moved in with Jamie after quarreling with his wife — has been pleasuring himself to one of Jamie and Maggie’s homemade sex tapes.
The film contains strong sexual content, including brief graphic nonmarital activity; offscreen group sex and masturbation; fleeting pornographic images; upper female, rear and partial nudity; much sexual humor; about 15 uses of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.