The premise of this romantic comedy – ladies man and black sheep of the family Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls for fiercely independent early-onset Parkinsons sufferer Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway) – could have easily been a disaster. With such serious subject matter at the heart of the story, without a good script and good leads to carry it, it could have felt in very poor taste. As it is, Hathaway’s portrayal of Maggie is so fantastic that I fell in love with the character from her first scene. And this from an actress who I normally find really quite irritating (despite being a very good actress – I think it might be the slightly nasal voice). She is strong yet brittle and successfully puts across someone who is knowingly fighting furiously for what, sadly, is a lost cause.
Gyllenhaal also casts a charming figure – well and truly gone is the awkward, uncomfortable child we met in Donnie Darko and in his wake is a tall, dark and devilishly handsome lead. Together however they are not entirely convincing and after one of the film’s most poignant moments where Jamie is warned off staying with Maggie, I can’t help but think that the path he takes is not the one he would have taken in real life. But then, what kind of a feel-good film would that make?
I do have a couple of other gripes – the fact that Maggie somehow makes a living good enough from working in a coffee house that she is able to put herself up in a huge apartment and spend hours on end making odd photographic art. The next is the hideously cheesy music that they insist on playing twice over the ending scenes. They damage the respectability of the film far more than any unbelievable character decisions.
A very enjoyable effort but a lack of overall finesse prevents it from being very, very good.