I'm not usually a fan of romantic comedies, but this was one I'd decided I wanted to see – mostly because of my aforementioned fondness for Anne Hathaway.
Oh, and I'm going to talk about the plot – so consider this a spoiler alert.
Not really a romantic comedy
Now, I alluded to it being a romantic comedy and, based on the preview I'd seen, that's what I thought it was going to be. But, as TV Tropes tells us, trailers often lie; while it's being marketed as a romantic comedy, there's a more serious aspect to it.
A formula that doesn't quite work
What I'd interpreted from the preview was that the two lead characters were rival drug reps who started a casual relationship which then turned serious for the guy but not the girl – something along the lines of (500) Days of Summer.
Not so. While that is technically true, it's the reason why that's more important – Anne Hathaway's character has early-onset Parkinson's Disease, and because of this she doesn't want to get into a long-term relationship.
So yeah, the parts where it's not a romantic comedy aren't just slightly more serious compared to the comedic moments; they're flat-out bleak. And the combination – in the way it was done I mean; obviously, the mixing of comedy and drama is done all the time1 – just didn't quite sit right.
Well, for me at least.
That wasn't the only flaw; the rest of the script isn't that great either. The subplot characters – Jamie's brother Josh (Josh Gad) who's been kicked out by his wife and, despite being a millionaire (he just took his IT company public), is living on Jamie's couch; Dr Knight (Hank Azaria), a friend of Jamie's; Bruce (Oliver Platt), Jamie's co-worker – are barely touched on, to the point where when certain revelations occur, it seems to have come about with any foreshadowing.
Jamie and Josh's parents are shown in the beginning but, apart from one phone call Jamie makes to his mother, are never heard from again.
1Once again I'll send you to TV Tropes for some elaboration – see here.
There are good performances – Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Gad as his manchild brother Josh, Hank Azaria and the always-impressive Oliver Platt – and one brilliant performance from Anne Hathaway. Hers is by the far the most developed character, and this gives her a lot more to work with. And she does an amazing job.
The naked elephant in the room
The first things I heard about this film is that a) it reunited Brokeback Mountain co-stars Gyllenhaal and Hathaway; b) just like in that film, it would involve the two having sex; and c) the film would feature quite a bit of that.
Of course I – a straight male on the record as considering Anne Hathaway to be one of the most attractive women in the world – have to admit that that didn't exactly make me not want to see it.
These rumours turned out to be entirely true; Hathaway and Gyllenhaal both spend significant screen time sans clothing. But it's completely in context – in the sense that it's an illustration of the kind of relationship (i.e. mostly sexual) the two are engaging in – and doesn't seem done simply for the sake of it2.
2A good example of where it was unnecessary was Halle Berry's topless scene in Swordfish.
I enjoyed it, but it's by no means brilliant. It's very funny in parts and the performances – Hathaway's in particular – are good. But I felt that the imbalance of drama and comedy, and the weakness of the subplots undermined the overall experience.