All is not as it seems in director Steven Soderbergh’s new film, “Side Effects.” It’s an intelligent, twisty murder mystery that plays games with your brain. So pay attention. This film is not for slackers.
In the opening shot, the camera zooms into an apartment window and pans across a floor marked with bloody footprints. Immediately, we’re drawn into a web of deception woven by a devious perpetrator whose identity is up for grabs.
Rooney Mara plays Emily, a young working woman whose husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), has just been released from prison after serving four years for inside trading. During Martin’s incarceration she sought psychiatric help from Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in Connecticut. Seems the loss of living the good life was not an easy transition for Emily. When Martin comes home she has difficulty coping, sinks into depression and is referred to a New York shrink, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law).
A drug company is paying Dr. Banks to conduct a study on a new antidepressant called Ablixa, which he prescribes for Emily, after she purposely rams her car into a brick wall. Ablixa’s side effects result in unforseen consequences, including a murder. But who’s the responsible party? Is it Emily, Dr. Banks or, perhaps, the pharmaceutical company? Someone must pay, literally, if you get my drift.
It’s difficult not giving away too much without spoiling what’s going on in “Side Effects.” There are so many subplots and twists in this psychological thriller, it will leave audiences reeling. Soderbergh (“Traffic”) grabs your attention at the get-go and never lets loose. He throws about psycho babble disguised as clues. “Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.” “The inability to construct a future defines depression.” Pay attention.
The casting is first rate. Mara (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) is the consummate chameleon. Her portrayal of the disturbed Emily is so multidimensional it is head spinning. Law (“Contagion”) is at his best as the confused psychiatrist who is told he needs a shrink. And Zeta-Jones (“Traffic”) has playing an ice queen down to a science in her duplicitous depiction of a caregiver.
“Side Effects” deals with greed, karma and revenge. Soderbergh cleverly doesn’t assign guilt to any one person or organization. He merely points out that Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors and lawyers can, collectively, be responsible for moral disintegration.
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