Keith and I are a little late in the game when it comes to watching the film Love and Other Drugs, but we aren't much into movies, so better late than never. Although not the best film ever made, it's about time we had a real Hollywood movie with A List actors portraying what life with PD is like.
The film revolves around Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal), a pharmaceutical rep and his love interest, Maggie (Anne Hathaway), an artist who suffers with Young Onset PD. It's difficult to tell if this movie is about the pharmaceutical industry, Parkinson's disease, or love, because the plot is all over the board and changes direction rapidly. It seems to want to fall into the typical romance-comedy genre, but the over-the-top explicit sex scenes and the somber reality of PD cause it to fall short of its mark. In fact, the best thing about this movie is the justice it does to Parkinson's disease. Tears streaming down my face, it became increasingly difficult not to break down and openly weep.
As part of the back story, Maggie briefly explains her journey to a correct diagnosis, an important little tidbit often forgotten. Most people don't realize that it can takes years to get an accurate diagnosis of PD. She also discusses her lengthy list of PD meds. Hathaway does an impressive job of portraying the early stages of Young Onset PD, with all its frustration, pain, emotional ups and downs. We see the pinky tremor, we see her painfully trying to open one of her bottles of meds, we see her unable to do something as simple as open a package of Pop Tars, we see her cry in agonizing despair when she is unable to refill her prescription on time. Someone in the research department, along with Hathaway, deserves an accolade for the reality of the disease they were able to find and bring to the film. Especially poignant was the scene at the Parkinson's convention where real-life PWP speak about the disease, showing a vast array of symptoms and stages of PD. It was during the Parkinson's convention that a scene truly spoke to me.
While at the convention Jamie meets a man whose wife is in the final stages of the disease. Jamie asks his advice and the man tells him to run. In fact, he goes on and on about how marrying his wife was the biggest mistake he ever made, how fast Jamie needs to run from Maggie, how soon he will be wiping up his wife's shit. My jaw hit the floor as the tears started to pour. Never before have I seen such a realistic portrayal of what those of us on the other end, those of us who happen to be young and fall in love with a PWP, go through. The words Jamie heard from this bitter man are words I have often heard myself, almost verbatim.
For the past five years, with the exception of three very lovely ladies and their mates, any time I have asked anyone for advice the response is always the same - run. When I ask for advice I am looking for something real, something tangible. Which is better - pullovers or velcro-up shirts? Wheelchair or mobility scooter? How do get them in and out of the shower safely? Any little tips for the curling up toes? Give me something I can use, something real. Just don't tell me to run. I wonder if my questions, with all my enthusiastic optimism, is offensive to them? Does it somehow make their own pain, their own sorrow, less valid? Is that they way they see it?
After watching this scene, I pulled it together enough to turn to Keith and say "Wow! I hear that all the time." "Really? Still?" he replied. We held hands, tears streaming down both our faces. "Yeah, but I'm not going to run," I said. At that moment we were both deeply moved, him by the negativity I face from others, and me by his compassion. By the end of the film those roles reversed, as Maggie tells Jamie that she will need him more. She will need him more than he could ever need her. That is what Keith voices to me so often. This time, I was the one crying in compassion for him and all that he goes through with this disease.
For a couple who rarely watch movies, this one really hit home. It spoke to us on a level we still can't quite explain. Maybe it was seeing it on the tv that did it, or knowing that people actually took the time to research and learn all they could about PD and cared to portray it with dignity and respect. Maybe it was seeing ourselves, each other, reflected back upon us. At any rate, this film is a must see for anyone dealing with Parkinson's disease.