Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z Burns
Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language
DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Synopsis from Amazon:
From Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) comes this suspenseful and provocative tale of intrigue starring Channing Tatum, Academy Award nominees Rooney Mara and Jude Law, and Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones. After her husband (Tatum) is released from prison, Emily (Mara) begins suffering from terrifying anxiety and turns to psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Law) for help. But when Banks prescribes an experimental drug for her, the side effects have chilling and deadly consequences. Full of unexpected twists, Side Effects is the sexy psychological thriller that critics are calling "wildly unpredictable!"
Soderbergh's latest film, and what is being reported as being his last, is a fun Hitchcockian treat for those of us who are drawn to stories that are described as "twisty." Side Effects follows a young New York couple played by Tatum and Mara who have recently been reunited after his four-year stint in the state penitentiary for insider trading. Still in their 20s, the couple is obviously on shaky ground as they start to learn to live together again. Emily (Mara) has long suffered from depression, and the return of her husband has seemed to bring on another bout of depression. Days after he comes home she intentionally drives her car straight into a parking garage wall. At the hospital, she meets psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Law) who agrees not to admit her under the condition that she begins seeing him at his private office.
Emily begins to see Dr. Banks on a regular basis and the two try to find the right drug to put her on to help with the depression. He meets with her former psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert (Zeta-Jones), at a convention and she suggests that Dr. Banks tries a new drug called Ablixa. Emily starts to show some real progress on the new drug, so when some dangerous side effects start to manifest, they decide to keep her on the drug to harrowing consequences.
I found Side Effects to be a smart (although not as smart as it thinks it is) and fun movie. The movie really makes you think about pharmaceuticals, side effects, and the responsibility of doctors. This movie raises some important questions about the legal drug business and whether or not a doctor can be held responsible for his/her patient's actions. There is no question that America, as a whole, is a country obsessed with its drugs and I really liked this movie's unflinching gaze at what it means to be depressed and under a fog of medication.
I can't even tell you how many times I've been left shaking my head as an ubiquitous drug commercial plays in the background. Side effects include: constipation, nausea, an inexplicable need to gamble, fever, itching, hallucinations...but at least your toe nails will no longer be yellow. The side effects are always so much worse than whatever ailment it is supposed to be curing. It's lunacy.
Anyway, I thought the casting choices were perfect. Jude Law is wonderful as the somewhat slimy psychiatrist that makes money any way he can, including taking money from a pharmaceutical company by taking place in a drug study (he "recruits" patients to try a drug--although, not the drug Emily is on), working at the hospital in which he meets Emily, plus his own private practice. We learn he is taking on more and more work because his wife has been laid off and they want to keep her son (his young stepson) at his private city school. Rooney Mara gives a subtle and believable performance as a young woman fighting depression and struggling to adjust to her newly returned husband. She is a young actress I'm quickly starting to admire through films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network (on a side note her sister, Kate Mara, who was in Netfix's brilliant show House of Cards is also amazingly talented). Tatum doesn't have a whole lot to do here, but he does well in his role of a young husband who is baffled by his wife's depression and as the privileged man looking to get his life back. The only role I wasn't sold on was that of Dr. Seibert. I've never been a fan of Zeta-Jones (although she was brilliant in Traffic) and she is verging on ridiculous here. She played the doctor as if the role was called "sexy psychiatrist" over-acted and downright vampy, you almost expect her to shake her hair out of constant tight bun and throw off the hipster glasses like she's in a bad porno.
Overall, I was impressed with Side Effects. With the small exception of Zeta-Jones (whose role is fairly small anyway) the acting is perfection. I do wish that the film wouldn't have focused so much on the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar, but do love the questions it raises about the drug industry. Definitely worth watching on DVD.
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