Reviews

'Love and Other Drugs': Cure-Alls

As it goes about its romantic-comedy-drama business, Love and Other Drugs also conjures a sometimes fascinating other plot.


Love and Other Drugs

Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Josh Gad, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Judy Greer
Rated: R
Studio: Fox
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-11-24 (General release)
UK date: 2010-12-29 (General release)

As it goes about its romantic-comedy-drama business, Love and Other Drugs also conjures a sometimes fascinating other plot. That part is based on Hard Sell, a memoir and expose about selling Viagra in the '90s, and centers on Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), introduced as he's selling stereo equipment -- until he gets tossed out for sleeping with the boss' girlfriend. Unlike his enormously successful family members, Jamie has bounced from job to job, usually in sales. Though blessed with good looks and smooth talk, he's far better at selling himself than any other products, perhaps because he's primarily interested in getting laid.

Soon Jamie moves bounces into a pharmaceutical rep position for Pfizer, chasing down doctors and pushing the benefits of Zoloft over then-fashionable Prozac. While posing as an intern with Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria), Jamie meets an early-onset Parkinson's patient, Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). She's dismissive at first, even combative when he sits in on an impromptu breast exam. But Jamie persists and it only takes a few scenes before they tumble into casual sex, which Love and Other Drugs treats with refreshing frankness -- it's the first mainstream romantic comedy in ages not to regard naked bodies (gamely and evenly shown off by Hathaway and Gyllenhaal) with an uncomfortable mix of mockery and embarrassment.

Indeed, judged by the standards of today's dire rom-com, Love and Other Drugs is smart and specific, based as it is on a couple's evolving relationship rather than a drawn-out 90-minute flirtation. They both insist that they don't want a real relationship, but they keep coming back, beeping each other for lots more enthusiastic sex. Eventually, actual conversation starts to seep in.

The other plot concerns Jamie's career, which takes off when he starts pushing the new drug Viagra. Blue pills in hand, he finally finds his salesman niche, channeling his powers of seduction into promises of a sexual cure-all. Similarly, Gyllenhaal channels his wide-eyed eagerness into a slicker, less puppyish guy than he usually plays, and the movie smartly showcases Jamie's adjusting of his restless energy -- to sales jobs, to Maggie, and to real, conflicting feelings.

Maggie, for her part, has the hard-charging quirkiness of what has become known as a "manic pixie dream girl," a phrase coined by A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin and almost instantly applied to dismiss any female romantic lead without the staidness and restraint of tastefully humorless kitchen-sink indies. But despite Hathaway's combination of prickliness and movie-star charm, the Polaroid-taking, art-making, guy-analyzing Maggie probably qualifies for this dubious term, especially when the movie conveniently denies her any visible friends, family, or even many acquaintances.

Jamie, by contrast, has too much supporting cast, including Knight and a romantic rival (Gabriel Macht), as well as parents (George Segal and Jill Clayburgh) and an uncouth older brother named Josh (Josh Gad, babbling as if through a poor man's Jonah Hill routine). He's like a character out of another movie entirely, and not a good one -- an Apatow knockoff where the hero needs an even more vulgar, faux-outrageous sidekick. Romantic comedies often depend on such characters for structural stability, a perspective outside of the central relationship. For the most part, though, Gad just appears in pointless, flailing comic interludes, a stunning miscalculation given what else the movie has on its plate.

While wasting time on Gad's antics, Love and Other Drugs fails to capitalize on the specific time it so insists on capturing. The film announces its 1996 setting at the outset, then attempts to underline it by playing self-consciously "'90s" music cues. But most of these songs fail to evoke that specific year ("Two Princes" by the Spin Doctors being more of a 1992 jam, and Liz Phair's "Supernova" having more prominence in 1994 -- though "The Macarena" is chillingly on-target) -- or any mood beyond "Hey, remember the '90s?"

This superficial alluding underlines the movie's view of the decade less as a specific time than a convenient location for some relationship issues and a side of medical drama. Love and Other Drugs is engaging in the moment, and Gyllenhaal and Hathaway do their best to create a convincing couple. But eventually even their efforts are swept away by generic blather, bold declarations of purpose and weepy talk of a life-changing love. Really, it doesn’t matter what year they're supposed to be living in.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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