Movie Review: Side Effects

Letter Grade:

The Good:

All of the acting from the main characters is great
In the end, it is a complete and clever story
The tone of the film is cohesive throughout

The Bad:

The movie seems a longer than its 106 minutes.
The artistic camera shots don’t always make sense with the context

Cast & Crew:

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Stars: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, & Catherine Zeta-Jones

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language

If you have seen the trailer already (or click on the video below), you already know that in Side Effects someone is killed, which is good since the opening scene of the movie is the blood all over the floor and the bloodstained footprints leading away from the pools of it.

Cut to 3 months earlier and you see Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) applying lipstick in the mirror.  She is preparing to visit her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) in, what appears to be a minimum security prison.  You quickly find out that his incarceration is due to some insider trading and that after 4 years, he is about to be released.    Emily seems anxious but happy about his return home.  A seemingly natural response after being a young married couple separated for longer than you have been together.  Not long after Martin’s return though, she has a suicidal episode and is hospitalized.  We find out that this was not the first incident with depression and the psychiatrist on duty at the hospital that evening, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), is concerned so he insists on a follow-up at his practice. The next few months pass with a lot of prescriptions, deceptions, triumphs, and failures leading up to the aforementioned murder.  The rest of the film focuses on the aftermath of this murder.  Who is to blame and what the truth really is.

There are aspects of this movie that are great, the acting in particular being one of them.  Rooney Mara seems to put everything she’s got into this role.  I felt the same way about her after seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. When I watched her in this role, I only saw Emily Taylor, not any of the previous roles she has played or any late night show appearances I’ve seen her in.  Jude Law is also fantastic, especially during the latter part of the film when, in a style that is reminiscent of Hitchcock themes, he seems to be losing his mind trying to rescue his professional and personal life without anyone in his corner.  Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones also deliver wonderful performances and were perfectly cast.

The writer, Scott Z. Burns, offers up a script that is a scathing indictment of pharmaceutical companies and practices. They even made a website for the fake star drug of the film, Ablixa.  The website and commercial (also featured in the film) so closely resemble real ones that if Jude Law weren’t on the page you may have asked your doctor about it.  This is of course unnecessary, but I kind of like these pseudo realistic details that I have seen with other movies occasionally over the last few years.  Prometheus did some similar promotions with ads for the android David.  The story also seems critical of upper class “problems,” as the root of her depression seems to be based on the fact that she’s not ridiculously wealthy anymore.  And, to tie it all together, every well off female character in this film seems to be taking or previously been taking all the latest prescription cure-alls.

Throughout the film there are many odd camera angles, soft focus, or out of focus shots.  While I understand that much of that is to really convey the disorientation, mental instability, and downfall of these characters lives, these types of shots happened more frequently than necessary in my opinion. I also am not 100% sure that it was shot like that solely because of the story or if it was shot like that because it’s kind of Steven Soderbergh’s thing.  Either way though, the movie is very successful of making you feel uneasy throughout, which is probably the point.

There are parts of this movie that are completely predictable, but I think there are enough twists and turns that you really couldn’t get to the whole picture on your own.  It also takes a slightly psycho-sexual turn towards the end that I really wasn’t expecting. The movie as a complete piece is really good, but not great.  The acting gets it close, but could not push it over the top for me.  Still, I recommend this movie for adults who like a slower paced, well done thriller.

Jennie Stoddart (24 Posts)

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