Friday, February 8, 2013
Movie review: In Side Effects, Soderbergh redefines cause and effect
The film slowly peels back hidden relationships and motivations, culminating in shocking results.
Writer/Director Steven Soderbergh burst onto the film scene more than 20 years ago with his indie sensation Sex, Lies and Videotape. Soderbergh has made a career out of working on films that result in discussion and, often, controversy (We Need to Talk Abut Kevin, The Girlfriend Experience, A Scanner Darkly). His latest film, Side Effects, is no exception. Scott Z. Burns’ screenplay examines culpability for doctors who prescribe prescription anxiety and antidepressant medications and the patients who take them. It also sheds light on the financial benefits and motivations offered by pharmaceutical companies to doctors who endorse their products.
Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays Emily Taylor, a depressed young woman who is struggling with readjusting to her life with her husband Martin (Channing Tatum of Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street), who has just been released from prison. She meets Dr. Banks (Jude Law of Sherlock Holmes, Contagion) in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. They strike a tenuous deal – in exchange for her release, Emily will agree to counseling with him.
Emily and Dr. Banks agree upon a medication that seems to work, but the side effect is intense sleepwalking… She walks, talks and interacts in a sleep state that she cannot recall in the morning. When she commits a crime in this state, the film poses the question of who should shoulder the responsibility for the crime.
Mara shows her range as her character goes through varying stages of emotions, ranging from melancholy to grief to rage. Law also runs the gamut – in one scene he is the healer and in another a victim. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) adds more mystery and suspense in her role as Dr. Siebert, Emily’s past doctor and a consultant to Dr. Banks. The film slowly peels back hidden relationships and motivations, culminating in shocking results. Side Effects is packed with plot twists, suspense, and surprises. Burns and Soderbergh collaborated on both Contagion and The Informant! and they have mastered their rhythm in their latest offering.