Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two films. One premise.

   It has been an interesting movie marathon for me because I saw two films that include an illness as the theme but originated from two countries that are both on the other side of the world. Instead of burning the midnight oil reading and studying for my exam, I spent late Sunday night watching these two movies. I was supposed to watch only one movie, but I lost interest in it that I decided to watch another one to make myself feel better.

   I'm not sure if spoilers are included in this post, but Love and Other Drugs is one of the typical boy-meets-girl film so even if I mention the ending it wouldn't be a spoiler right? In addition, I'm watching the second movie entitled My Love By My Side to distract myself from bawling my eyes out (Well, it's true. But I started writing this post while watching the second film and finished it when I was available.). Here goes.

   Love and Other Drugs is directed by Edward Zwick (of Legends of the Fall, Courage under Fire, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond) that stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. I don't want to explain why I saw this film; let's just say that I got tired of reading my textbook even though I was only halfway through reading one chapter in my course text. But yes, I survived through the two-hour movie, and I am glad that I was able to finish it because I almost wanted to drop it. Basically the film is your typical hollywood romantic comedy that involves sex. And in this movie, they delivered it quite a lot. And because there was a lot of sex, they were naked most of the time. I'm not even kidding. Most. Of. The. Time. It's like the film has 75% of them either having sex or naked that the main plot of the movie made no sense because of too much sex. Anyway, the movie is just about Jamie Randall, a pharmaceutical representative and a player, who meets Maggie Murdoch who has Parkinson's disease. Don't worry; like I said, her disease is not a spoiler; the audience already have an idea that she has an illness because the trailer included that fact. So here's the gist of it: they meet, they begin a sexual relationship with no commitment, they eventually fall in love, he wants to fight the illness with (and for) her, she feels guilty for tying him in that situation that she initiates the break-up, he realizes that he can't live without her, she realizes that she needs him more than he does so they get back together. The end.

   Like I said, I didn't feel that this movie has a melodrama vibe in it, even though I think it should have, because of her sickness and all that great big sacrifice. It verges on the romantic-comedy genre, but then again, it includes a sickness in it that are usually in melodramas. I don't even want to discuss about the plot or character either, because if the genre of this movie doesn't make sense to me, what more on the plot and character development?

   On Anne and Jake though, they were alright; I'm not their biggest fans, although Jake's body is a pleasure to look at, but other than that, their acting was average. Well, more on Jake's part, I think, because Anne portrayed Maggie believably, so she gets a few more points for that.

   The film is a bit refreshing because it is a romantic-comedy film that deals with an illness; but as the two hours passed I felt like the disease wasn't focused much in the story because the film was more on their relationship (either physical or emotional. Okay. More on physical.).

   You know what, forget it. I don't even know what this film wants to convey to the audience; just that this is another romantic-comedy film. Or maybe a quasi-romantic-comedy film with hints of a melodrama.

   After watching this film, I was frustrated because I had no idea what tangent the movie wants to go to. So to mitigate the disappointment (on Jake and Anne's part, because I thought they were more than that), I searched for another film that brings me to my comfort zone: Asian films. I thought about watching Once but then I told myself that I would watch it next time. I thought that I was in the mood to watch Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love (no pun intended), but I wasn't able to find it, so I picked between a Japanese film or a Korean film, and settled with My Love By My Side (or Closer to Heaven). The film is directed by Park Jin-pyo (of Voice of Murderer and You are my Sunshine (love this film) and stars Ha Ji-won and Kim Myung-min. I already had an idea of what the film is about because I read its synopsis awhile ago. Like the movie above, the main character Baek Jong-soo (Kim Myung-min) also has a sickness called Lou Gehrig's disease that is revealed at the beginning of the film. He meets an old friend, Lee Ji-soo (Ha Ji-won), a funeral service director, and they decide to tie the knot together. So the entire movie has these two newlyweds in a hospital as they battle through his sickness. This is a tragic movie, by the way, just to give a hint on what happens in the end.

   I was a witness of the Hallyu wave (or Korean wave) since the early 2000s so I know what a Korean melodrama is. So if you have seen the likes of Autumn in My Heart (Song Hye-kyo, Song Seung-hun and Won Bin (!!!)), Winter Sonata (Choi Ji-woo-hime and Bae Yong-joon or Yon-sama) or Stairway to Heaven (Choi Ji-woo and Kwon Sang-woo), then, don't be surprised with the ending. I didn't really care about the ending because like I said, I started the draft for this post while I was watching the film to distract myself from crying, even though I knew that this was a tragic film. So what compels me to watch these types of films even though I have seen them a lot? I guess it's the plot and character development that I was more interested in, as well as the execution of the actors and the director to see how well they delivered.

   Jong-soo and Ji-soo's relationship were established at the beginning of the film so that the rest of the story is about the hardship they went through because of his illness. I thought the establishment was arranged too fast that I didn't have that emotional connection with their relationship. But they made up for it because their honeymoon stage was believable, probably because of Kim Myung-min and Ha Ji-won's portrayal (and they are amazing actors, by the way), of a newlywed couple who are learning to love each other. And because they are married, yes, they did the deed as well, and it was hilarious, because I didn't expect them to do it in that place. But comparing with the number of times and places where Maggie and Jamie did it, I shouldn't be surprised. I guess I'm just used to American television or films that convey sex as a normal premise in the story that seeing Asian actors do it (like in this film) in an unusual place makes it refreshing, even though it is already a common scene in Asian films.

   What I liked about this movie is that it didn't just focus on the couple nor the disease and how they overcame this obstacle with their great big love for each other, but other patients of the Lou Gehrig's disease and their families were featured to show different perspectives of this terminal illness. The film does not just show the love of a wife to her husband (in this case, Ji-soo to Jong-soo), but the various kinds of love that a person feels for a sick loved one: the love of a husband to his wife, a brother to his older brother, a mother to her daughter, a friend to a friend. These relationships were given attention so the audience would also feel an attachment to the supporting characters, not just the main couple.

   Analyzing the two movies, I was more satisfied with the latter than the former because it was more emotional. This is entirely my opinion of course. If you're interested in purely eye candy then Love and Other Drugs is for you. But if you want more of an emotional ride then I recommend My Love By My Side. Two movies about an illness, each on a different tangent. Take your pick.  

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