Thursday, December 9, 2010

Convene at the Movies: Love and Other Drugs

A couple of years ago, when I was working for a competitor meetings magazine, I helped one of my fellow editors come up with a list of the best movies that feature conferences or meetings. Can you name any?

(The Fugitive is one. Michael Clayton — though that wasn't on the list — is another, sort of.)

At any rate, I saw another good one this weekend: Love and Other Drugs, a romantic "dramedy" set in the late 1990s, in which Jake Gyllenhaal's Jamie Randall and Anne Hathaway's Maggie Murdoch fall hesitantly — especially on her part — in love.

Why hesitantly? Because Maggie has early-onset Parkinson's, and doesn't want to burden Randall (as she calls him throughout much of the movie) with the challenges she knows her disease will eventually present to both her and whoever she's with.

At a certain point in the movie, Randall, a fast-talking drug rep for Pfizer, attends a medical conference in Chicago with Maggie. The movies shows them walking the trade show aisles, with Randall schmoozing and saying hello to friends in the industry — while Maggie's a bit bored.

She finds herself wandering out of the convention hall and sees, across the street, an "unconference" for people living with Parkinson's. She goes inside and, for the first time in her life, begins to see that her disease doesn't have to be a death sentence — she can live and love, and have a sense of humor about her plight.

It seemed to me an apt metaphor for both life and the meetings industry: Sometimes, the sideshow blows the main event out of the water.

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