Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material.
Length: 112 minutes
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $107 million (32 U.S., 64 Intl., 11 DVD)
Written by: Charles Randolph (Interpreter, Life of David Gale), Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz (TV and Last Samurai), based on the book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy.
Directed by: Edward Zwick (Defiance, Blood Diamond, Last Samurai, Siege, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, Glory, and About Last Night)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway
With: Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, and Josh Gad.
A self-serving philanderer become pharmaceutical sales rep discovers more than he bargains for when he falls in love with an equally commitmentphobic young woman who suffers from early Parkinson’s.
Entertainment Value: B
I really disliked this movie from the very beginning. It felt overwritten, there was wayyyyy too much skin for anyone but a pornographer’s sensibilities, and it just seemed contrived. Nevertheless, it sort of grew on me over time, and when I saw where the plot was going, I was tremendously intrigued.
Superficial Content: H
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity H, Violence C, Language H
People use drugs, including marijuana and various pharmaceuticals. There is a fistfight and a variety of moderate violence elements. None of that will compare, however with the overwhelming smut and language issues. This is NC-17 for sure. Not for kids of any age, and probably not really for adults who have any issues with lust either.
Significant Content: A+
The tragedy, if that’s the right word, is that such a horribly unwatchable movie would have such fantastic messages to share. The lunacy of pharmaceutical sales is exposed (freebies to doctors, absurd competition among reps, etc.) But the real story here is selfishness and using one another for sex which then becomes real love based on mutual acceptance of flaws and a willingness to sacrifice for each other. In a very real sense, this movie is selling Christian marital devotion as the thing people are looking for in all their empty or less-committed relationships.
Artistic/Thought Value: A
Part of the beauty of this movie (despite its superficial ugliness) is the way it reveals it’s purpose. First, we of course see the transformation that takes place as the selfish lust of Jamie is gradually transformed into a selfish love and eventually a real love for Maggie, which is just as discomforting to her as it is for him. But the subtle genius is that the real messages of this movie are carried in the gem lines delivered by Josh Gad (Jamie’s brother, Josh). His voice here is way too insightful to be anything other than the moral narrator, leading and adding insight to the plot proceedings. Yes, stylistically this feels a bit like Up in the Air, but that’s pretty good company to be in.
~Could this movie have been made with so little content that it would have been PG? PG-13? Would it have missed its mark by doing so? How much of the vulgarity in this movie is useful and how much of it is simply there to be there?
~How realistic a portrait of drug sales reps and doctors behavior do you think this movie portrays? In what ways does the career behavior of Jamie fit with his relationship behavior? When one changes, why do you think the other might change, too?
~One of the big plot elements is Maggie’s Parkinson’s. When Jamie finally falls for her, why does he become so obsessive about finding a cure for her? What does this ultimately say about his love for her? Can someone be selfish in trying to do good for others? Why does she find his behavior in this regard to be a problem/flaw?
~What is it about Maggie that appeals to Jamie? Her physical appeal? Sex? Her rejection of him? Her ability to not be manipulated by any of his normal devices? His ability to fix her?
~Our culture (and the characters in this movie) seem to think that sex without intimacy or commitment is not only an acceptable thing, it’s actually a good thing because it rescues you from the dangers of being vulnerable and rejected for your flaws. Why is such mutually agreed upon exploitation so wrong? Why is it so contrary to real love? What do you think real love means? How does the love of Jesus compare with these notions? What do we all really want?
~Is it fair to say that real love is what happens with you want to be with and serve a person more than you want sex and whatever else they can give to you? How is the awareness of flaws and the acceptance of the person despite them crucial to real love?
~What are some of the defense mechanisms Maggie has constructed to protect her from being betrayed or rejected?
~Why does Jake have such low self-esteem, even though he seems to be the life of the party?
~Between Jake and Maggie, who hates themselves more?
~Would it be fair to describe their relationship as the anti-marriage? If marriage is the supremely Christian institute and symbol, would it be fair to say that a culture endorsing such relationships is thoroughly anti-Christian?
~Josh says that the most obvious thing about Jamie’s treatment of women is that he must hate them or he wouldn’t have sex with so many of them. What do you think of this?
~Josh also says that it’s one of the greatest insights of his life to discover how totally meaningless and empty sex with a stranger is compared to a marriage. What do you think about this comment?
~If you’ve seen it, compare this movie with Up in the Air?
~What is the point of comparing love to a drug? Is love the drug or is sex the drug?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Chasing down the bus.
~The break-up scene.
~Driving to the hospital from the party.
~I think I love you.
~The panic attack.
~The long-time married man at the Parkinson’s conference. Do you think he really believes the advice he gives? What does his advice say about the wisdom of marriage? What sorts of things does marriage draw out of us for our good even if we don’t want it to? Is he preaching by contrast, given the ultimate way the movie develops?
Overall Grade: B+
A totally smutty comedy romance smuggling an anti-pharmaceutical company message with some fantastic insights about real love and relationships.