Friday, July 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Side Effects (2013) ***

R, 106 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Ann Dowd, Michael Nathanson, Peter Friedman, Laila Robins, David Constabile, Mamie Gummer

Watching Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects”, a thriller about the institution of drugs for the treatment of psychological conditions, I wondered at first what drew the director to this subject for one of his final films before his planned retirement. By the halfway point, I knew. As is often the case with Soderbergh, he examines his subject from an angle that doesn’t scream out what it’s really about.

On the surface this is just a thriller about a psychiatrist who makes a few mistakes with a patient because he wants her to get better. But “Side Effects” is a cunning thriller that doesn’t let on to its twists until the audience has already formed ideas about where it is going. Jude Law and Rooney Mara are engaging in their roles as doctor and patient. That’s how the plot gets its hooks in, then you find your self squirming for the position in which Law’s doctor has placed himself, and you don’t know whether he deserves it or not.

The movie could’ve been better had it invested more in the doctor’s personal life. When everything starts going south for him professionally, his wife is a little too eager to jump ship. The filmmakers either needed to establish better that the couple were already having troubles before this event, or they needed to give the wife stronger incentive to question her husband. Yes, she has plenty strong incentive, but to suddenly take the word of others against that of the man you love and know better then they… I just didn’t buy her reaction to his situation.

Other than that, “Side Effects” is an incredibly satisfying thriller that has a little to say about the drug industry and our increasing dependence on them to help us deal with our problems. In this case, those effects have a much more severe cost for everyone involved, including the man who thought he was just helping someone get better.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

The middle third of the film may be a bit difficult to follow at times, but the effort pays off massively. Nice review Andrew.