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 is a chameleon of a director and one of the few who has the ability to move from critically acclaimed Hollywood blockbusters, like Ocean's Eleven, to dramatic art films like The Limey. He is also one of the hardest working filmmakers today, taking on such roles as producer, writer, director, cinematographer and editor. As a director, he has been able to pump out two feature length films in a single year and he has done this more than just once. However, over the last decade his films have become weaker as it seems as though not enough time has been invested into exploring the emotional depths of the stories he is bringing to life. Therefore they lack the ability to conjure genuine emotion from their audience. It almost seems as if he does not care about whether or not audiences are moved or entertained, but rather is just doing his job, moving from one project to the next.
At the beginning of the year it was announced that Soderbergh was retiring as a director and that SIDE EFFECTS would be his last theatrical film release. In an interview with New York Magazine, he stated: "The worst development in filmmaking—particularly in the last five years—is how badly directors are treated. It's become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly."
Rooney Mara plays Emily, a woman who seems to be suffering from some sort of mental disorder after her husband, Martin, played by Channing Tatum, returns home from prison. After a failed suicide attempt Emily is introduced to Dr. Jonathan Banks, played by Jude Law, a psychiatrist who tries to help her by prescribing her an anti-depressant. As Emily's symptoms worsen, her psychiatrist and her try to find an anti-depressant that works for her. After many failed attempts Dr. Banks takes the advice of Emily's previous doctor, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and prescribes her a new experimental medication called Ablixa. The side effects attempt to destroy both of their lives.
Side Effects is shot and paced like a serious, well-crafted art film studying the truth behind depression which slowly builds into one hell of a tense thriller. What hold the film back is the ending. By the end this serious, well-crafted art film has succumb to a Hollywood twist gimmick popcorn flick better suited for the late 90's. I couldn't help thinking that someone had farted in the kitchen. I do not know if Soderbergh was just following the screenplay or if he was told to give it a happy ending that over-explains everything, leaving no sense of mystery and easily spotted plot-holes.
Of course, even with the out-of-place, poorly written surprise conclusion, Side Effects is still better than the majority of thrillers being produced today. And though it disappoints, the ride up until that point was mesmerizing and thought-provoking.
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