February 25, 2020
by Carla Hay
“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”)
Directed by Diego Kaplan
Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Set in San Francisco and the fictional Mexican island of San Voitar, the Spanish-language romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” has a cast of Latino and white characters that are primarily from the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A man tries to hide his multiple mental illnesses from his new girlfriend, and things turn disastrous when he accompanies her to a business retreat attended by her boss and co-workers.
Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like over-the-top, somewhat formulaic romantic comedies, but might offend some people who won’t like how various mental illnesses are made the butt of jokes.
The romantic comedy “My Boyfriend’s Meds” (“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio”) tries to put a somewhat different spin on the genre by having its leading man as someone with various mental illnesses, which he controls through a lot of medication and therapy. But what happens when he goes on a business retreat with his new girlfriend (whom he hasn’t told yet about his psychiatric problems) and accidentally leaves behind his medications?
Because of this very tricky and sensitive subject, the movie takes a very broad, slapstick approach that has mixed results. The humor works best when it’s about mixed signals and failed communications, but it’s downright awkward and cringeworthy when it attempts to show the dangerous effects of a mentally ill person who goes off of medication for a few days.
“My Boyfriend’s Meds” (directed by Diego Kaplan, who wrote the screenplay with Gary Marks) also has an underlying patriarchal message that expects people to be more tolerant of men with mental illnesses than women. If the lead female character in the movie had the mental problems instead of the lead male character, there would be a lot less likelihood that characters in the movie would be willing to laugh off the inappropriate and offensive behavior shown by the mentally ill person.
Although this movie is a comedy that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” cynically presents itself as a movie that can lessen the stigma of mental illness. But instead, all the movie does is inflate the worst stereotypes of people with mental-health issues.
In the beginning of the film, viewers are introduced to San Francisco marketing executive Jess Overman (played by Sandra Echeverría), who’s looking for her Mr. Right. She’s single, successful, attractive and a nice person—an all-around great catch. The problem is that she’s very unlucky in love—or does she just have bad taste in men?
Her latest wrong boyfriend has proposed to her over a romantic dinner at a restaurant. He’s had the unusual idea of having a flying drone carry the engagement ring to the table when he proposes. But things go terribly wrong when the drone malfunctions and crashes, which causes Jess’ hair to catch on fire, and then the drone gets tangled in her hair, which requires large chunks of her hair having to be cut off. She’s so humiliated that she immediately breaks up with the boyfriend.
While she’s home alone after the fiasco, Jess lies on her water bed and smokes a joint. She then falls asleep and the joint burns through her water-bed mattress. After just going through her hair being set on fire, now she’s experienced a mini-flood in her home. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
Jess goes to a mattress store to buy a new mattress—one that definitely won’t be a water-bed mattress. While she’s lying down on a mattress in the store to try it out, she senses someone lying beside her. It’s a good-looking guy who’s about 10 years older than she is. He introduces himself as Hank Gasper, the owner of the store.
Hank then proceeds to tell her that he can deduce what she needs just from how she’s lying down on the mattress. He correctly guesses that she used to own a water-bed mattress and now wants a regular mattress. He then follows her by lying down with her from mattress to mattress.
Instead of being creeped out by his behavior, she finds it charming, so she accepts his invitation to go out on a date with him. During dinner, Hank is the perfect date, and their chemistry together is so strong that they end up in bed together after that first date. They continue to see each other, and Jess can’t believe her luck at how much this guy is her ideal man. He’s charismatic, he treats her like a queen (including cooking gourmet meals for her), and they have a passionate sex life.
But this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without a problem. Hank has a big secret: He has several mental illnesses and conditions, such as having a bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, Tourette syndrome and attention-deficit disorder. He’s been controlling these issues with lots of medication and the help of his psychiatrist Dr. Sternback (played by Jason Alexander), who urges him to immediately disclose his conditions to any woman he’s dating if he thinks it might turn into a serious relationship. Hank doesn’t take Dr. Sternbach’s advice (which Hank continues to ignore for most of the movie), so he doesn’t tell Jess about his psychiatric problems.
Meanwhile, Jess works at a company called Tequila Tuxcueca, which has a hotshot founder/CEO who thinks Jess’ personality is more “banana juice” than “tequila.” The company is having an upcoming retreat where employees can bring a guest, and Jess is desperate to impress her boss and co-workers to prove that she has a fun personality. Jess is a needy people pleaser who’s divulged way too much of her love life to her nosy, mostly married co-workers, who can’t hide their condescension that she hasn’t found Mr. Right.
The co-workers remind Jess that she’s broken up with a lot of boyfriends for various reasons. One ex-boyfriend was rejected because he has one testicle. She ended a relationship with another ex-lover because he has a habit of crying after he has sex. She dumped another man because he acted like an airplane pilot during sex. The fact that her co-workers know all of this about Jess’s sex life says a lot about what type of person Jess is too.
Jess mentions to her co-workers that her current boyfriend Hank Gasper could be The One, and of course they want to meet him at the retreat. Feeling pressure to bring a “date” to the retreat, she asks Hank if he wants to go to the retreat with her, even though she tells him that she knows it might be too soon in their relationship for this type of getaway trip. Unbeknownst to Jess, Hank had been planning to tell her about his psychiatric problems that night. But instead, he says yes to the retreat invitation and decides to postpone telling her.
The retreat is at a fictional Mexican island called San Voitar. The company employees are staying at the Shanadu Hotel, which takes the term “getaway resort” seriously, because it’s a place that does not have cell-phone service or Internet access for the guests. The movie also has a running gag (which gets old very quickly) about how the hotel employees emphasize the “sh” in “Shanadu,” to indicate that they want people to be as quiet as possible.
Things start off well on the trip, until Hank finds out that his big bottle of pills (he put all of his necessary medication in one bottle) is missing from his luggage. In a flashback, viewers see that Hank’s cat accidentally knocked the bottle out of his travel bag, and the bottle rolled underneath Hank’s bed without Hank knowing this happened.
Hank immediately panics and tries to call his psychiatrist, but that turns into a mini-ordeal because of the lack of cell-phone service and the slow-paced concierge whose pen runs out of ink. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. Hank ends up using a land-line phone to make the call to Dr. Sternbach. And wouldn’t you know, there isn’t a pharmacy at the hotel or nearby, so the meds will have to be flown in by special delivery. Of course, this can’t happen overnight, since Hank has enough prescriptions to fill a medicine cabinet, so Hank will have to go without his meds for a few days.
The rest of the movie is a slapstick fest of Hank having various meltdowns because he’s doesn’t have his meds, while Jess is confused over why he’s acting so crazy. Hank’s OCD kicks in when he sees walkways paved with stones, and he tiptoes to avoid stones. He starts to hallucinate, and one of his frequent hallucinations is seeing an animated pink medication capsule and a blue medication tablet, which he calls “Pila” and “Dora,” which can talk and dance. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
Hank keeps in touch with Dr. Sternbach, who advises him to get as much sleep as possible, avoid drinking alcohol, and try not to have sex because sex will get him over-excited. Of course, Hank does the opposite of what his doctor advises, so he begins to act crazier.
A male concierge notices that Hank is acting unstable, so there’s a subplot of the concierge conspiring with one of the hotel’s cooks to con Hank out of money. The plan is for the cook to pretend to be a witch doctor who will charge Hank $1,000 to get a “special cure” for his medical problems. The concierge and the cook decide to split the money in their con game. Of course, Hank takes the bait, and sneaks off to meet with the “witch doctor” who promises to make him a magical concoction. Hank believes everything this stranger tells him. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
And then, Brooke Shields has a small supporting role as a New Age healer named Alicia Santos, who leads teambuilding therapy sessions at the hotel. The sessions include people snapping their fingers in unison when they agree on something, which actually makes them look more like drag queens than a group of corporate employees. But the peaceful harmony that Alicia is trying to spread is frequently broken, because by this time, Hank’s Tourette syndrome begins to act up, so he starts shouting out random curse words. At first, the co-workers think he’s just being uninhibited, but then he begins shouting random insults at Jess’ co-workers, and they see that something is very wrong with him.
As Jess becomes increasingly mortified by Hank’s behavior (he still hasn’t told her why he’s acting this way), things go from bad to worse during a karaoke party, where Hank (wearing a cowboy hat and tight jeans) sings Backstreet Boys songs, strips down to his underwear, and starts dry humping the legs of one of Jess’ co-workers. It’s as cringeworthy to watch as it sounds.
But that’s not the worst part of the movie. That comes later when someone in the movie tries to commit suicide (take a wild guess who it is) by jumping off of a high ledge. What happens next is nothing short of ludicrous. It’s also bound to offend some people who think that suicide and suicide attempts should not be trivialized for the sake of making a slapstick scene in a comedy.
Despite making the leading man a psychiatric mess, “My Boyfriend’s Meds” is still a formulaic and predictable movie. As the troubled Hank, Camil handles his physical comedy pretty well, but the rest of the performances in the movie are serviceable at best. The message that the film tries to convey is that love can conquer all obstacles. Too bad some obstacles can’t be overcome for this movie, such as its ridiculous script and sloppy direction.
Panetelion Films released “My Boyfriend’s Meds” in select U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.