A Younkin Production: "Side Effects" Review
on 2013-02-06 15:15
Movie Review: "Side Effects" -
In addition to being (supposedly) his last theatrical film, director Steven Soderbergh, for a while, makes you think “Side Effects” could be his best-a complex thriller about psychiatric drugs-only to lose its focus almost entirely and make you wish screenwriter Scott Z. Burns would take a shot of Ritalin. Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara play Martin and Emily, an NYC couple with issues. Martin has just been released from prison for insider trading. Emily is dealing with crippling depression and suicidal thoughts. Enter Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist being paid $50,000 by a pharmaceutical company to do a case study on a new drug, completely free of charge to the patient. Emily winds up being a perfect candidate for it but doesn’t expect to wake up in the middle of the night sleep-walking, or sleep-other things either.
Soderbergh and Burns (who last worked together on 2011’s “Contagion”) do a provocative job of setting up and analyzing our drug culture. The drug ads with smiling, happy customers and the promise of a “boost” to anyone who needs it offset by a reality that is far more disorienting. Soderbergh gets the best performance we’ve seen yet from“Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” star Mara, who captures what a dazed, vulnerable, lonely world this can be. They also ask the role of the doctor in all this: drug pusher or patient treater? Friendly ear or decipherer of lies? I’m not giving anything away when I say that things go very wrong and Banks then becomes a desperate man trying to clear his name and save his career and here is where the film almost becomes a different movie, a more conventional, far-fetched murder mystery where devious people are behind an overly intricate plot to attain the usual reasons. It’s a bit disappointing, but doesn’t detract too much from a very smart film, shot with the disturbing ugliness of a nightmare. It’s hard to shake its chilling “effects”.