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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Love drugs

Late at night this past weekend, I sat down and watched the movie Love and Other Drugs starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. The movie follows two particularly gorgeous lovers going at the intricacies of mutual trust and understanding within a society awash in pharmaceutical drugs.

The movie focuses on the development of Gyllenhaal’s character, Jamie, an intelligent young man from a wealthy family of medical practitioners, who has yet to contend with his own potential. At his job, Jamie applies his innate ability to communicate with others toward the manipulation of women for sex, in addition to selling high-end stereos and electronics.

Inevitably, Jamie is caught scarfing down on his oafish boss’s girlfriend and is fired. Jamie’s family then guilt trips him into taking on the more financially rewarding career of a Pfizer pharmaceutical salesman. After a whirlwind introduction into the fast-paced world of promoting drugs to the medical elite, Jamie internalizes the advice of his family and sets his sights on earning more money.

And it is through his new job that Jamie gets to take a peek at the soft exterior of his soon-to-be girlfriend, Maggie, as played by Hathaway.

The beginning of the relationship is hard-fought for the couple, but something compels them to keep seeing each other. It is not until a particular scene in which Jamie is sitting in an empty bathtub, lying to his mom on the phone, that Maggie realizes something is amiss.

Amidst Jamie’s skyrocketing success at Pfizer — he has become the point-man for sales of the newly invented Viagra — Jamie condescendingly exaggerates the dollar figure of his success to his mom in order to make her feel better.

It is here that Maggie begins to wonder if Jamie would ever treat her in a similar fashion.

Jamie’s life has conditioned him into thinking that everything and everyone he wants — particularly women — can be treated like a product that can be bought, sold or traded. And, when someone’s wants are not met, Jamie believes that some drug can replace the longing for even the most profound parts of the human condition.

Maggie has the medical condition known as Parkinson’s. An artist and outsider to the medical community, she has been juggled from doctor to doctor her entire life, her medical needs rarely being met. It is difficult for Jamie to understand that there is a fine line between playing doctor to his girlfriend’s condition and taking the time to appeal to her as a person.

It is very difficult for Maggie to relate to how hard Jamie wants to fight for her. Jamie has been butting heads with members of the medical establishment his entire life. The rage she witnesses from deep within him as he tries to fix her condition intimidates her. Maggie has a difficult time understanding that Jamie, for the most part, seeks only to exert his rage at those who want to exploit her.

The final question posed by the film is whether Maggie can partially compromise her idealistic understandings of her identity in order to let Jamie into her life. At the same time, Jamie has to decide whether Maggie is worth not competing over as though she is a commercialized product in the fast-paced, coat-and-tie world to which he is so accustomed.

Jamie, certain things in this world must develop at a natural pace and there’s nothing that even your best-intentioned rage can do to change that. Don’t coddle Maggie like a child — protect her like an adult.

Maggie, Jamie seeks only to fight for you. At some point, if you ever actually do want your needs to be met by the medical community, you’re going to have to compromise some of your anti-establishment values. Both of these characters seek to gain a whole lot from understanding that, sometimes, the only virtue the strongest warriors carry in their hearts is patience with those who are different from them.

Jamie, while it may be hard for you to see at the get-go, there are a few beautiful things in this world that ought never, ever be even partially about fame, fortune, money or power. To you, Maggie is unquestionably one of these things.

Do our star-crossed lovers ever let go of their personal struggles in order to let each other into their respective lives, or do they go about their own ways separately and wait to become intimate with someone else who is more similar to who they were before meeting each other? You should probably watch the movie and find out for yourself.

MICHAEL FIGLOCK can be reached at the bottom of his prescription vial, or at mpfiglock@ucdavis.edu.

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