Written on November 18, 2011 by Daniel P. Malito
As many of you who follow me know, I have been recovering from a particularly hectic ordeal over the last month or so. You can read about all that happened in my last column and the latest post in my shoulder replacement blog special (Part 5). During my recuperation, I had the opportunity to watch many movies and TV shows – in fact, it’s just about all I did. Among the overwhelming horde of horrible remakes, pointless horror stories, and kitsch fad films, there was one bit of cinema that made a very distinct impression on both my girlfriend and me. The movie was called “Love and Other Drugs.”
This movie, which stars both Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, at first glance seemed to be just another in the long line of cookie-cutter romantic comedies that are being churned out of Hollywood at a furious pace. Most of these movies deviate little from the standard “boy woos girl, boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back” plot line. Because of this, I sat down with my girlfriend to watch the movie with reluctance. Viewing the first half hour of the movie, I was convinced my assumptions were correct.
About halfway into the movie, the story took an unexpected turn, and I immediately became much more interested in the action on-screen. I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but I will say that the movie became less about “boy meets girl” and more about “sick girl pushes boy away.” When I realized that this film was hitting a lot closer to home than I assumed it would, I began to pay closer attention.
…Yet again, when I saw this scene, I began to get choked up. Not only did I know exactly what she meant, but I have said those exact words to my current girlfriend.
As I frequently find myself at home many times at night, it naturally follows that I have viewed many movies in my time. I particularly enjoy the older classics, but I will watch anything that is not a complete stinker. Because of this, I like to think that I have accrued a decent amount of knowledge and experience about Hollywood and their product. Because of this, I can say, without question, that “Love and Other Drugs” is one of the most accurate portrayals of being in a relationship with someone who is ill that I have ever seen. Not only that, but it is one of very few movies that I have seen that deals with the subject truthfully. Movies about sick people are common, yes, but not many choose to focus on a budding romantic relationship. Most just pull your heartstrings about a dying child or a sick parent. It was a bittersweet surprise to see love with illness so accurately portrayed.
As I continued to watch the movie, all I kept thinking was that someone who was sick had definitely written the script. Anne Hathaway plays a young woman who is suffering from early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and Jake Gyllenhaal plays a drug company representative that falls in love with her. In the beginning, all you know is that Anne’s character is suffering from some sickness, but she is upbeat and spontaneous and fun to be around. Jake’s character, a notorious womanizer, is taken in by her charms, and finds himself falling in love with her despite her pleas for them to keep the relationship on a casual level. The relationship does inevitably become a serious one, and when it does, Anne’s character begins to push Jake’s character away with bad behavior and obviously false insults. Jake’s character, not one to give up, keeps pushing for her to accept his love, and she eventually gives in and the relationship begins in earnest. Of course, I am oversimplifying the movie, but again, I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The point of telling you all this is not to give the movie a free plug, but it is to let you know that it may be worth watching. If you are having trouble expressing to your partner how you feel about your place in your own relationship, it may be the perfect Friday night date. I know that the film will move you because it moved me to tears several times, especially when Anne’s character uses lines that I have used word for word on significant others throughout my life.
For instance, at one point, Anne’s character gets drunk to help control her Parkinson’s, and ends up bawling out Jake’s character. He, of course, ends up walking out. On the way out the door, though, he hears her drop a glass and begin to scream and cry with the pure frustration of not being able to do something as simple as hold a glass without dropping it. When this scene played out, I suddenly found myself with tears in my eyes. How many times have I been doing something simple and my stupid arthritic hands just won’t work? In that moment, not only did I feel her pain but I knew that someone truly sick had written the script. Of course, Jake’s character simply holds her and tells her that it is going to be alright – something that we all know can help to comfort us during those more horrible times.
Another scene in the movie has Anne’s character telling Jake’s character that, point blank, she is going to need him more than he will ever need her, and that it isn’t fair for her to ask that of him. Because of this she wants to end the relationship and spend life alone. Yet again, when I saw this scene, I began to get choked up. Not only did I know exactly what she meant, but I have said those exact words to my current girlfriend. I told her that she would have to bear the lopsided burden of responsibility in our relationship, and that I’m uncomfortable asking her to do that.
Watching this movie stirred up emotions about loving someone healthy that I thought I had put to bed long ago. I guess the truth is, when you are with someone you really love, you will never feel one hundred percent at ease with the burden you place on them. It will always be a constant battle between being ok with asking for help and hoping that you are not asking too much. Then again, any time I even bring the subject up with my girlfriend, all she ever says is “you’re worth it.” And really, that’s all any of us wants to hear, isn’t it?