First I have to say that I already thought Anne Hathaway was a fabulous actress before I ever saw this movie. She was thoroughly entertaining in "The Devil Wears Prada," she made me feel a number of different emotions in "Rachel Getting Married" and through her acting in "Love and Other Drugs" she gave off this empowering sense of strength and renewed purpose that isn't easily captured by many actresses these days. Jake Gyllenhaal was wonderful as well, but Hathaway took the movie to another level with her portrayal of a young woman with early-onset Parkinson's disease.
Gyllenhaal played Jamie, a pharmaceutical representative who meets Maggie (Hathaway) at a doctor's office, where Maggie is requesting a number of different medications for managing her Parkinson's disease. At that point, we're not shown any signs of her disease. But as the story moves along, her symptoms start to become more pronounced – especially when she is forced to go without her medications while waiting for a pharmacy to open (and as a result, the audience is exposed to a whole different side of Maggie, and made to feel angry for her, as someone so young who has to live with such a terrible disease). Usually when a person thinks of Parkinson's disease, we think of older men and women, shaking, trembling, forgetful, and we feel terribly devastated for them. Of course the same goes for a multitude of other diseases, from Alzheimer's to cancer and diabetes. Parkinson's doesn't tread lightly on its victims, and Hathaway explored the all-encompassing nature of the disease with much humility and honesty. We also saw what many men and women afflicted with disease have to resort to in order to get the medication they need just to live semi-normal lives (and sometimes even that is a stretch). Taking two-day bus trips into Canada to get medications because they can't afford the medications in the U.S. – and that's even after insurance has "paid" their part. We also saw Maggie attend a convention in which many Parkinson's patients offered words of optimism when confronted with adversity – the disease won't keep them down.
Overall I felt this movie really touched on the honest lives of people affected by disease, and it did so with respect and even some humor to complement the story along the way. The chemistry between Hathaway and Gyllenhaal made the movie both entertaining and easy to watch, like the audience was given a secret glimpse into the world of an endearing and unconventional couple. But the story of their relationship was what elevated the movie to the "awesome" level. It didn't feel contrived or forced by any means – it was very genuine and inspirational. I could really watch this movie over and over again and not get sick of it. That, my friends, is evidence of a great movie.
I gave "Love and Other Drugs" a rating of 8 (maybe closer to 8.5) because it's not exactly the best movie I've ever seen, and doesn't compare to other movies that I consider to be perfect tens, but it comes pretty darn close to being one of the best movies I've seen in a while.