Love, drugs, tears and fears

Carly Findlay
It is not often you see a character with a disability in a major film. Love and Other Drugs is a new film. It has a character with a disability. Anne Hathaway plays a young woman with Parkinson’s disease. She starts a relationship with a man played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Many of the film’s themes are meaningful to me. Themes include the desire not to lose your identity to illness. Another theme is the fear of being a burden on others. There is also the desperate search for a cure to illness.
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Carly Findlay on 12/01/2011
Anne Hathaway is smiling as she rests her head on Jake Gyllenhaal's naked chest

Both James and Maggie are commitment-phobic

Hollywood does not often address disability in their films. When there is a character with a disability, they are often a villain or an ugly duckling.

Love and Other Drugs is a new film where one of the beautiful main characters has a disability. The disability is Parkinson's disease.

Funny, sad and moving

The film is a cross between a romantic comedy and a drama. The acting is good. There are funny, sad and moving scenes. There is also a fair amount of sex and nudity.

The character James Randall is played by the incredibly good looking Jake Gyllenhaal. He is a smart underachiever who becomes a salesman for a drug company. He is very smooth with the ladies.

James meets Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway) when working undercover as a medical intern. Maggie is a 26-year-old with early onset Parkinson's disease. James ogles Maggie’s breast and she hits him. He then charms her phone number from a receptionist he is playing naughty nurses with. 

Relationship blossoms

Both James and Maggie are commitment-phobic. But they agree to sleep together, just once. Once turns into frequently. A relationship then blossoms. But Maggie does not want James to get too close to her because of her illness. She doesn't want to fall in love and have James see her at her most sick. She does not want to become a burden on him.

The depiction of Parkinson's disease is handed with a light touch. There are a few scenes which showed Maggie's struggle with the pain. However, it is not confronting. But at least the film attempts to show what it's like to live with a disability or chronic illness.

No longer feels alone

One of the scenes which resonated most with me is when Maggie attends a Parkinson's disease conference. At the conference people share their experiences on stage. They speak with hope and determination that the disease is not going to steal their identity. Maggie meets people she can relate to. She no longer feels alone.

The film also highlights the competitive pharmaceuticals sales market. The spruiking of drugs to doctors by sales representatives with little medical knowledge or training is dangerous. James becomes a sales representative with a conscience. He becomes interested in the drugs that may help patients. He is naturally very focused on finding a cure for Maggie's disease.

Themes I identified with

I identified with so many parts of this film. I am sure some of my friends with a chronic illnesses or disabilities would too. The themes I identified with most included:

  • The desire not to lose your true identity because of illness
  • Wanting the one you love to believe in themselves as much as you believe in them
  • The cost of medication
  • The epiphany of finding others with similar illnesses
  • The tiring and desperate search for a cure by someone who loves you
  • The fear of being a burden on someone else because of your illness
  • The fear of being someone's partner out of pity.

Love and Other Drugs is a movie that left me thinking. It also left me a bit teary. And it wasn't just because of how hot Jake Gyllenhaal is.

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