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Side Effects

It’s a nifty, twisty, sexy,  little thriller…so what if I saw the denouement coming at roughly the halfway point. It’s still a lot of fun. Plus, director Steven Soderbergh throws us a few extra surprises towards the wrap-up, so I wasn’t 100% on target. The acting is so solid, the writing so deft, and the direction so polished, that it was impossible to pull away from it…a rare one sitting watch for me at home. On reflection though, the myriad, labyrinthine plot gives off the distinct odor of device, so the film ends up a mere puff of smoke after a neat magician’s trick. Nothing all that deep here, in other words. But even if it is just a gimmick…it’s a good one. And I think Rooney Mara has a long career ahead of her. No “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” flash-in-the-plan she.

Emily Taylor(Ms. Mara)is picking up her young husband, Martin(Sexiest Man Alive, Channing Tatum)from prison, after he’s served a 4-year sentence for insider trading. He almost immediately promises her that he’ll work to get them back to their life of luxury, after seeing the modest apartment that she’s been residing in while he’s been away. But something’s not right about Emily. At first, we write it off as her being uncomfortable in adjusting to Martin’s return. Of course, when she drives her car into a concrete wall, it’s obvious that she’s suffering from some sort of depression. In the hospital, Emily is assigned psychiatrist Jonathon Banks(a typically solid Jude Law). After diagnosing Emily’s symptons, Banks starts prescribing her a series of medications. The “side effects” of the various pills, however, create new and different concerns. For instance, she first exhibits no sex drive, but then she’s insatiable in bed. She also has an embarrassing crying jag on an important dinner cruise, upon which Martin is trying to impress a previous business associate. Soon, she begins doing chores while sleeping, after trying a new drug recommended by Emily’s previous psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert(Catherine Zeta-Jones). Then when Emily stabs Martin to death, while apparently asleep, the floodgates are open in the rush to assign blame. Is it the fault of one of the doctors? Can Emily be declared legally insane at the time of the crime? Or, is everything not what it at first seems? Hmmmmmm.

Steven Soderbergh has lately been threatening to retire from feature film directing, but hopefully he just takes a lengthy hiatus and then returns. Rarely do we experience a film maker so adept at succeeding in so many varieties of genres. Also, big-budget, miniscule budget—it doesn’t seem to matter. Soderbergh usually gets it right. In the last year alone he’s given us the near-brilliant action-thriller “Haywire”, the Liberace bio-pic “Behind the Candelabra” and also this trippy noir. Steven’s a jack-of-all-trades and a master of most—seemingly he can do it all. And Mara has a powerful presence as well as considerable acting chops. I like her a lot. Add nice work from Jude Law and a crisp puzzle of a screenplay from Scott Z. Burns…how can you go wrong? It’s a Hitchcockian fun house, and a hell of a good time.      Grade: B+

 

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2 comments on “Side Effects

  1. Channing Tatum AND Jude Law – sounds like a must- see!

  2. Whatever floats your boat, Simon! It’s Mara and Zeta-Jones for me! Plus, just about anything from Soderbergh is worth a look. Thanks for checking in! ML

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