Emily Taylor, despite being reunited with her husband from prison, becomes severely depressed with emotional episodes and suicide attempts. Her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks, after conferring with her previous doctor, eventually prescribes an experimental new medication called Ablixa. The plot thickens when the side effects of the drug lead to Emily killing her husband in a "sleepwalking" state. With Emily plea-bargained into mental hospital confinement and Dr. Banks' practice crumbling around him, the case seems closed. However, Dr. Banks cannot accept full responsibility and investigates to clear his name. What follows is a dark quest that threatens to tear what's left of his life apart even as he discovers the diabolical truth of this tragedy.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects" begins with the camera zooming in from the streets to an apartment window, and ends in the reverse manner (no, I'm not spoiling anything). In a subtle way, Soderbergh's final shot represents his "full circle". Will he really retire from filmmaking for good? If so, then we will miss him. He is a truly exceptional filmmaker - and "Side Effects" would be a worthy film to go out on.
Indeed, "Side Effects" is a pure thriller, as it was marketed. While prescription medicine is the central plot device, the film also deals with psychology, law, insecurity, social stigma, corporate greed and obsession. Not explicitly for all of them, mind you, but subtly enough to get the point through, and not dawdling on it a second further. The taut, gripping, Hitchcockian screenplay by Scott Z. Burns gleefully twists and turns its way into unexpected plot developments, allowing Soderbergh to roam the apartments and streets with his camera, creating an intense yet unusually hypnotic atmosphere that is irresistibly gorgeous to watch.
Jude Law, looking more haggard here, is suitably desperate and obsessive as the "good?" doctor who seeks the truth pervasively after a horrific act committed by his patient, Emily (Rooney Mara). Clues lead him to Emily's previous doctor, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), which reveal that things are not what they seem. Zeta-Jones is juicily and devilishly icy-cold in her portrayal of Siebert, reminding me of those wicked female villains of the 90's thrillers. Staying in the background while having an influence throughout the second half of the movie is Rooney Mara, once again giving a strong performance as the conflicted Emily. Extremely vulnerable, soft-spoken, and unpredictable, she continues to steadily rise as one of the best young actresses working today. Channing Tatum too, as her husband Martin, an ex-convict fresh out of prison for insider trading, portrays his character outside of the stereotype, and turns him into a somewhat sympathetic and unfortunate character.
Soderbergh's complete control of atmosphere would not be complete without his usual great cinematography, crisp editing and unnerving music score by Thomas Newman, who conjures up some interesting musical themes at the proper times to rattle the characters even further. This is extremely skillful filmmaking, and although the plot has been seen and done before, it is exhilarating to see how a master filmmaker commands his given material so strongly and fleshing it out with his signature style.
This is a very good film. It's one of those movies that, when you start watching, you want to keep watching to see what happens next. Hitchcock himself would have smiled at this one. As for Soderbergh, he still has that Liberace biopic due for a TV release later this year, so he's not done with it yet. But well, I sure hope he returns someday if he decides to do so.
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