December 19, 2010
My Parkinson's Week (1) -- Love and Other Drugs
I saw and mostly enjoyed this movie last week. It is a romantic comedy but with a somber overtone in that Anne Hathaway plays the role of Maggie, a 26-year-old with early onset Parkinson's. Jake Gyllenhaul (who played the role of a bisexual husband married to Anne Hathaway's savvy wife in Brokeback Mountain) plays the part here of Jamie, a womanizing Viagra hustler for Pfizer who in one scene acts out Viagra's warning about erections lasting 4 hours or more. The two meet and quickly fall in bed. But both view sex as a fun way to escape from life's travails. Both insist they are just interested in casual sex without commitment. Jamie is the first to realize that this time he's in love. Maggie resists, largely because of her fears about what her future holds.
The movie gives a somewhat glancing blow to the symbiotic relationship between drug reps and doctors.
This is exemplified by the portrayal of one doctor who is bored by his practice and is ready, willing, and able to take any inducement offered by a drug rep, particularly if it involves pretty young women.
Another glancing blow is delivered on the issue of the high cost of drugs, particularly for seniors, in a scene where Maggie is escorting a bus load of seniors on a trip to Canada to buy cheaper drugs.
The movie, basically a sex and nudity filled comedy, has a little trouble meshing this with Maggie's Parkinson's. Most of the time she's a tough, I'm-in-control gal. But that veneer shatters in one scene where she runs out of her meds and has an "off" spell.
Probably the most moving scene in the movie for me was when Maggie, who has accompanied Jamie to a pharmaceutical convention, wanders across the street and into an alternative medicine PD meeting where all the speakers are much further along in the progression of the disease but are nevertheless full of spunk and humor. When Jamie goes looking for Maggie and finds her in this meeting, he is brought up short when he strikes up a conversation with the husband of a woman who is far down in the disease's progression. This guy warns Jamie about his future if he stays with Maggie, saying that for someone in a relationship with a spouse in the late stages, Parkinson's is "not a disease; it's a Russian novel."
But the movie goes on to have a typical happy Hollywood ending.
I wouldn't want to end this cultural posting without mentioning two terrific shows I saw last week --- DC.'s Arena Stage, to introduce its fine new building, has an excellent revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma.." which I saw Tuesday night. And last night I was lucky to see the final performance of "Dream Girls" at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which ended with cheers, tears, and a standing ovation that continued for a long time as the hundreds of students and faculty who were involved in the production were brought to the stage. At the end, the head of the school made a surprise announcement that the cast had been invited to participate in the 40th anniversary concert in February of Earth, Wind & Fire! While the graduation rate at local high schools is just over 50 percent, 98% of Duke Ellington's students graduate and 95 % go on to college, often with significant scholarships.