Growing up, some folks want to be doctors. Some want to be lawyers.
Jamie … he just wanted to be a jerk.
He knew it'd be tough. Sure, he had some raw, natural ability: The charm to seduce women between "Hello" and "Check, please," the sensitivity of a blacksmith anvil and the loyalty of an elk in heat. But he knows that to achieve superjerk status—to rack up the number of transient affairs and cause the number of emotional breakdowns he'd need to become a Hall of Fame heel—he'll need to work hard.
And so he does, honing his abilities at a number of odd, occasionally lucrative jobs until he finally lands in the pharmaceutical sales business—a career that, in the film's eyes, can truly leverage his talents. Both Jamie and the drugs in question are geared toward giving folks some temporary relief from what ails them. And if the effects are gone the next morning … well, that's their nature, right?
Jamie's brain is filled with rapid-fire sales pitches; his briefcase with high-powered drugs. It's tough going at first, but once he starts selling an upstart product—a little blue pill called Viagra—he becomes the most popular pharmaceutical rep around. Doctors can't get enough of the stuff. And, incidentally, neither can their patients.
Better yet, Jamie's found the perfect casual relationship with Maggie, a beautiful artist who has no interest in intimacy but a lot of interest in sex. It's like having a "friend with benefits," only without the whole bothersome "friend" part.
All of that sets Jamie up for the time that he begins to wonder whether the "benefits" he's been reaping are, perhaps, a little overblown. Maybe there's something (gulp) cool about being "friends," he thinks. About drawing close with another human being. And so he begins to ponder whether or not it's too late to switch career tracks—from jerk to genuine.
Maggie, we learn from the get-go, has early onset Parkinson's disease. There's no cure for it, and Jamie knows that, eventually, she'll be incapacitated by it. Despite advice to the contrary, though, he sticks by her, even when the thought of caring for her terrifies him. For a time it looks as though he will leave her—but he can't stay away. He finally tells her that, whatever the future holds, he'll be there with her. Even if they could trade places with another Jamie and Maggie in a parallel world, he say he wouldn't: "I want us. You. This."
Never mind the mindless sex on display, Love & Other Drugs seems to say, We're all placing too much emphasis on sex these days. The message is muddled by its surroundings, but it's there nonetheless. One sex-addled doctor who mooches Viagra samples from Jamie confesses, "This profession for me was a higher calling—make people's lives better. [Now] look at me."
For a good chunk of the film, Jamie and Maggie seem to be in a constant state of lovemaking. They smash into cabinets, writhe on the floor, pant and moan, engage in oral sex and loudly express their orgasmic responses. Audiences see both of them completely naked. (Only their pubic regions escape the frame.)
It's pretty explicit stuff, and it's not just moviegoers who get an eyeful. When Jamie's brother, Josh, starts bunking with Jamie at his apartment, Maggie walks in and accidentally disrobes in front of him. Later, after Maggie and Jamie tape one of their sexual escapades, Josh finds it and watches it. It's implied that he masturbates while doing so. And he spends the rest of the film making crude comments about his brother's anatomy.
Jamie has sex with several other people, too. We see him with one woman in a store's back room. (She explicitly asks him to do certain sexual things to her.) He's with another in bed. And he cavorts with two women simultaneously at an adult "pajama party." (All three are shown naked.)
Jamie suffers prolonged arousal after taking Viagra. Hiding the "results" under a pillow. Before he gets to the hospital, Josh smacks him in the crotch several times. Then he opens his robe so that the hospital attendant (and the camera) can see the erection through his boxer shorts.
Meanwhile, Jamie's brother has sex with a woman at the pajama party. (We see her breasts.) And he jokes about Jamie giving him oral sex. Other jokes and conversations, some of them graphic, revolve around intercourse, masturbation, manual stimulation, sexual roll-playing, pornography, incest, homosexuality, infidelity, impotency and the affects of Viagra.
Maggie's breast exam at a hospital gets screen time. Two women kiss in a hot tub. Dancers, representing the drug company Pfizer at a corporate gathering, prance about in revealing, cheerleader-type outfits.
Jamie and a rival get into a fight. Jamie gets punched in the gut and hits the guy in the jaw—injuring his hand. He smacks Josh's head with a pornographic videotape. And he comes away with a bloody nose after brawling with a store manager. Maggie hits Jamie with a bag several times.
Jamie mentions to a Pfizer representative that one of the company's drugs is suspected of causing teens to think more about suicide—a train of thought the representative simply shrugs aside.
Crude or Profane Language
At least 40 f-words, more than 30 s-words, lots of coarse slang for various body parts and a smattering of other profanities including "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard" and "h‑‑‑." God's name is misused about 20 times; a half-dozen times it's paired with "d‑‑n." There are close to 10 abuses of Jesus' name. An obscene gesture is made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Jamie, in an effort to get a leg up on his competition, stocks doctors' shelves with Pfizer antidepressants and tosses samples from rival companies in a nearby dumpster. A homeless man gets wise to the ruse and takes the trashed tablets—eventually asking Jamie whether he has any more. Jamie says the man can take what he wants. People ask Jamie to supply them with Viagra samples under the table, and Josh asks Jamie for an antidepressant after he has a particularly difficult day.
Maggie is a self-proclaimed medication "whore" who takes several different drugs to keep her Parkinson's under control and alleviate the associated depression. When she runs out of a particular drug, she resorts to a bottle of booze, pouring herself glass after glass.
She and Jamie compare the ages when both of them went on Ritalin. She and Jamie and Josh all appear to smoke marijuana at various points. Jamie touts the benefits of watching TV while getting high. "If you're stoned, it'll blow your mind," he says.
A doctor injects his own exposed buttocks with testosterone. Characters drink wine, beer and mixed drinks, often at bars.
Other Negative Elements
Jamie cheats to get an advantage over his competitors, lies to his mother to make himself sound better and uses subterfuge to get women to sleep with him (or perform other favors). A really rude, self-deprecating joke is told about women who have Parkinson's.
At the pajama party, Josh has sex with a beautiful guest and leaves the gathering practically glowing—but not for the reason you might suspect. After spending a lifetime longing for casual sex (and idolizing his brother who finds it far more readily), he learns that sex, in and of itself, is pretty worthless.
"If I hadn't experienced it, I wouldn't have known how much I didn't want it," he says.
This, at its core, is the difficulty of Love & Other Drugs. It tells us that love and relationship are far better than casual sex. But it forces us—all of us—to voyeuristically experience lots and lots of the titillating, "non-important" stuff before we get the message.
That makes this an immoral morality tale for folks with no self-control. Once we get all that pesky carnal desire out of the way, it says, we can concentrate on what's really important. You can find true love, it says, by trying out a lot of false sex.
When it came to dessert, as a kid I used to think along the same sort of lines: If I ate enough chocolate cake, I'd eventually get tired of it and crave, I dunno, some green beans.
There's some truth embedded in there—but there's also a reason why this philosophy never really caught on with my parents—or pediatricians around the globe. I would have eventually gotten sick of chocolate cake. But by the time I hit my limit of fudge frosting, my teeth would've all fallen out and I would've looked like Jabba the Hutt.
No, the truth is, there are multitudes of reasons why, from time immemorial, we've saved dessert for last … and we've saved sex for marriage. Society has, it seems, largely forgotten these reasons. And, by extension, so has this film.