Streaming highlights November 12 to 15: Dopesick and Love Hard

PILL POPPERS: Dopesick tells the true story of how Purdue Pharma pushed their highly-addictive opioid OxyContin on America's working class. Below, Nina Dobrev in Love Hard.
PILL POPPERS: Dopesick tells the true story of how Purdue Pharma pushed their highly-addictive opioid OxyContin on America's working class. Below, Nina Dobrev in Love Hard.

DOPESICK

Disney+

IN a time when the world has become ever more reliant on major pharmaceutical companies to vaccinate us out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dopesick makes for unsettling viewing.

The eight-part series is loosely based on journalist Beth Macy's 2018 book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, which explored how US pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma peddled its pain medication OxyContin under false pretenses in the late '90s and 2000s.

Despite Purdue's assurances, the drug was highly addictive and sparked an opioid epidemic in the US which has resulted in almost 400,000 deaths since 1999.

Undoubtedly on paper that's an intriguing real-life story of greed and corruption. Turning that complex tale into a compelling TV drama is more difficult. Thankfully, series creator Danny Strong (Empire, Game Change) mostly succeeds.

Dopesick doesn't spend much time bogged down in the boardroom machinations of Purdue Pharma, although its emotionless depiction of company president Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg) is almost comically macabre.

The drama excels when it concentrates on the human face of opioid addiction.

Michael Keaton plays the fictional Dr Samuel Finnix, who is a dedicated GP working in a small coal mining town in Virginia.

Finnix is duped by a charming young Purdue sales rep played by Will Poulter (We're The Millers) into using OxyContin to treat his patients. His first patient is Betsy (Kaitlyn Dever), a young mining woman who becomes hooked on OxyContin after using it to treat a back injury.

Dopesick's non-linear narrative - adopted to spread out the show's juiciest bits - can make the story difficult to follow, but the sheer size of Purdue's malpractice and culpability reward patient viewing.

CHARMING: Nina Dobrev in Love Hard.

CHARMING: Nina Dobrev in Love Hard.

LOVE HARD

Netflix

A "stocking filler" would be the best way to describe this festive season's first Christmas movie, Love Hard. Much like socks and undies - Love Hard adequately does its job in the romantic-comedy genre, but never really excites.

The problem is the film rarely produces laugh-out-loud moments. Canadian actress Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries) is charming as the neurotic Natalie, but our leading man Jimmy O. Yang is fairly bland as the nerdy Josh.

Natalie is a columnist for a LA newspaper where she entertains readers with her dating disasters. But after connecting with Josh on a dating app, she decides to give true love a chance.

Natalie travels to Josh's small east coast town to surprise him for Christmas. However, on arrival she discovers she's been catfished as Josh is not the attractive adventure-lover she believed, but rather a nerdy storekeeper who lives with his parents.

Josh convinces Natalie to pretend to be his girlfriend for Christmas to impress his family, while he helps her seduce Tag, the attractive local man he used in his fake dating profile.

There's all the typical Christmas rom-com ingredients we've come to expect - the quirky grandmother, the competitive brother, the message of personality over looks and the predictable ending.

Unlike the two Christmas movies Love Hard references throughout and uses in its title - Love Actually and Die Hard - this one is unlikely to become a holiday staple.