Side Effects

By Joseph K. Saulnier

Steven Soderbergh has been toying with the notion of retirement for a couple of years now, and has said that “Side Effects” will be his final film. I certainly hope not.

As its title intones, “Side Effects” is a movie about what can happen when prescription medications, such as anti-depressants, can do at their worst, leading to anyone who taking them wishing they weren’t. The movie certainly starts out looking like a propaganda-film about how Doctor’s push these drugs onto patients as they are paid by pharmaceutical representatives to test their drugs. It seems that everyone in the film is taking meds of some form or another. The cast for the film should be a recipe for success: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum. But because of this perception, the first two-thirds of the film nearly put me to sleep. And then a twist happened that the made the plot extremely complex and worth watching. In many ways, the less said about “Side Effects,” the better. This may produce a better experience for you than I had. But here’s the basic idea of the movie:

Emily Taylor, played by Rooney Mara, is introduced when she is visiting her husband Martin (Tatum), a man convicted of insider trading who is about to be released after four years behind bars. Martin’s discharge happens uneventfully, but adjusting to the new life of poverty rehashes the depression that first plagued Emily when her husband’s prison term started. This leads to Emily crashing her car head-on into the wall of the garage in her apartment building. While in the hospital, rules force her to see psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Law).

Up until this point, I had trouble connecting with Mara’s character. While it is revealed that she had mental problems prior to this episode, you don’t really completely grasp what it is until later in the movie. Mara seemed to be very stiff, and way too much like her emotionless character from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” But then we enter Jude Law. Law’s character, Banks, is friendly, approachable and caring. He is what first drew me deeper into the movie. Though, you soon discover that he is a doctor who believes in the power of drugs. This character kept me interested because I couldn’t quite nail if he was going to be an antagonist or protagonist.

Of course our dear Dr. Banks prescribes some medications to Emily and she begins showing some disturbing side effects and… The side effects lead to really terrible, bloody things which ruins careers, lives, and even drive people to madness. Or does it?

If you catch the movie, and would like to talk about it and possibly compare notes, shoot me an email at [email protected], or you can find me on Facebook.

2 stars out of 5