Side Effects-attachment0

Side Effects

Movie Information

The Story: A young woman accidentally kills her husband, seemingly due to side effects from her antidepressant medication, but things are perhaps more complicated — and nefarious — than they seem. The Lowdown: A beautifully shot, expertly acted, wholly professional murder thriller from Steven Soderbergh that misses greatness by being a bit too emotionally detached and slightly too rambling in its climax.
Genre: Crime Thriller
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Jude Law, Mara Rooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum
Rated: R

If you believe Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects is the director’s once-and-for-all theatrical swan song (his Liberace biopic will premiere on HBO sometime this year, and the filmmaker hasn’t ruled out working in television), then this film is a fitting end to a prolific career — a microcosm of both the strengths and drawbacks of the man’s filmography. Without the passage of time, it’s difficult to tell how we’ll remember Soderbergh’s oeuvre, but right now his work has been defined by being thematically indefinable, constantly jumping genres and never being afraid to try something new. Side Effects encapsulates much of this spirit, mixing up classifications, its intent to be unpredictable and suprising.

Side Effects begins as one thing and eventually ends up as a completely different movie in both tone and concerns. The film opens following Emily (Rooney Mara), a young wife whose husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is being released from a four-year-long prison stint for insider trading. Martin’s release seems to trigger a fit of depression and feelings of hopelessness in Emily, who tries to hurt herself by running her car into a parking garage wall. After being admitted to the hospital for her injuries, she meets Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who agrees to help Emily with her issues. He eventually puts her on a designer antidepressant that brings her out of her funk, but causes side effects, including fits of sleepwalking.

It’s in one of these sleepwalking episodes that she kills Martin with a kitchen knife, and — by blaming the drug along with her inability to remember the event — Emily soon finds herself committed. If you stopped Side Effects right here, you’d have a film that’s little more than a treatise on the dangers and proliferation of prescription drugs in modern society. But this isn’t a film with any grand message. From here, Dr. Banks, becomes the fall guy for Emily’s crime and, with his career and personal life in tatters, he starts to believe there’s more to this crime than the surface suggests. From here, Side Effects becomes more of a mystery film and — without giving away too much of the plot — eventually a bizarrely austere take on the revenge flick with a clever and strange sense of justice.

By the time the credits roll, Soderbergh has made — with its twisting, turning plot — what boils down to a really classy Brian De Palma film. Unfortunately, Soderbergh’s technical proficiency and reluctance to make things too trashy creates a movie that feels too stodgy and distant. While the cast is near perfect (this is the closest I’ve seen Rooney Mara live up to her hype), there’s no real emotional center. Side Effects is such technically proficient filmmaking (despite suffering from too-many-endings syndrome) and so well-crafted that a bit of its entertainment value is lost. But these are, honestly, minor gripes, especially when you set Soderbergh’s film up in contrast to the rest of this winter’s dreary mainstream releases. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.

Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7


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8 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. Xanadon't

    I expected this to be the Soderbergh movie that would squeeze an extra half-star out of you, but so it is. Haven’t seen Magic Mike yet, but I found this more impressive overall than Haywire (though I enjoyed that too). And I definitely thought it better than Contagion, which strikes me as– to use a Ken phrase — a “four-star-forgettable” if ever there was one.

    There’s something about the way that Soderbergh’s camera treats his actors in this moive that I really enjoyed. And got to love the symmetry between the opening establishing shot and the final tracking shot of the movie. Nice touch.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I was shocked — shocked — to find that my original Ocean’s Eleven review was a mere four stars. Then I remembered it was converted from that weird rating system that didn’t allow for half stars. It now has four-and-a-half.

  3. Justin Souther

    If I remember correctly, I originally gave Magic Mike four stars, though I think now I’d bump it up a little (and maybe bump Haywire down just a bit while we’re at it).

    Perhaps the same kind of thing will happen with Side Effects, but right now I don’t see it sticking with me down the line. I think it might have something to do with the movie’s main concern being cleverness, which rarely ages well.

  4. Jeremy Dylan

    His best movie’s still OCEAN’S ELEVEN, with OUT OF SIGHT running a near second. Or maybe THE INFORMANT!

    Looking forward to the Liberace picture.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I tend to agree on Ocean’s Eleven, but there are some — including The Limey — that I haven’t seen. And I have to admit, I really liked Kafka.

  6. Jeremy Dylan

    I’ve been meaning to catch up on his early work (I haven’t seen anything before OUT OF SIGHT). Maybe I’ll start with KAFKA, based on that recommendation.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Bear in mind it’s easily 20 years since I saw Kafka. I believe it’s only available at this point on a Swedish DVD. But in a recent interview Soderbergh talked about a DVD release including the theatrical version and a version he’s recut and redubbed.

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