Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a bit of a player, he is handsome and a massive hit with the ladies but it is obvious he only cares about number one, himself.

He was good at selling expensive, knock off grey import Hi-Fi equipment but he is a whole lot better and richer, when he stumbles into the fast growing Pharmaceutical sales industry.

Of course he is not great from the off, working for Pfizer (yes that drug company), he is mentored by Bruce (Oliver Platt), all worn down and keen to get back to Chicago, civilization and his family, in that order.

Jamie starts to learn, turns on the charm machine, beds the receptionist and before long is pushing Zoloft samples into the slot previously occupied by Prozac. The Prozac goes in the skip and the local hobo appears to benefit in a running movie joke. The local wonder rep from the opposing company is not that chuffed, but he is big buddies with Dr Knight (Hank Azaria), so that works out ok.

All is going well for Jamie until his unethically commenced relationship with Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway) causes him to pause. Maggie is not well, a 26 year old with early onset Parkinson’s, which is certainly no laughing matter.

This is perhaps where the film begins to falter as we move from bright and breezy into deeper waters. Jamie and his younger, cash rich but sex starved brother, Josh (Josh Gad) and their parents, are largely played for laughs. Whilst the initial scenes with Maggie are classic romcom setups, the script does take them to darker places.

Both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are believable, Hathaway taking the acting honours in the more demanding role. The sex scenes are reasonably revealing for a mainstream film, hardly shocking but no “You’ve got mail” in the innocence or language department.

Of course, the advent of that little blue pill (Viagra) provides many opportunities for innuendo and again perhaps clashes with the drama. Dr Knight as a doctor that needs to be influenced to get the drugs flowing, appears to be a contradiction, all caring one minute and seemingly ready to nail anyone around, given half a chance and a box of blue pills.

There are some good lines and the film sets out to satirize the drug companies but loses it’s nerve after a while. The relationship with the doctor and the rep’s appears off to a casual observer. One would hope that the relationship was/is not as cosy as this portrays but maybe this is wishful thinking.

Certainly this is no expose on the industry, although loosely based on a book by Jamie Reidy, a former Pfizer salesman. As a comedy there are not enough laughs, as a romance this is diminished by the ever present illness and as a drama it is hampered by both the aforementioned.

The film is certainly likeable enough but the tone is rather uneven with the viewer not quite sure what’s coming next. An unusual departure for director Edward Zwick, who in the past has concentrated on epic movies, this aims small but mostly hits the intended targets

Summary

One half rom-com and one half dramatic serious illness movie, director Ed Zwick clearly not sure which genre he prefers for the finished result.

Watchable, with two good looking leads and enjoyable in parts but does not always hang together well.

Mildly recommended