Film Review: SIDE EFFECTS

Directed by Steven Soderberg
Written by Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones

I am sure professional critics gave a lot of thought to how to review this movie with spoiling it. I read somewhere that those late to the preview were not admitted. I remember that from a movie in my childhood-was it THE TINGLER? So I am going to tread carefully here in discussing the plot.

A woman, Emily (Mara) is suffering from a depression that began when her husband (Tatum) went to jail for insider trading. When she rams her car into a parking garage wall after his return home, the hospital sends a psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Law) in to see her. She agrees to accept treatment from him and after some false starts with various anti-depressants, Banks prescribes a new drug on the market: abixa. The drug is recommended by a colleague (Zeta-Jones) and he is involved in tests of it (for a lucrative salary). It has some nasty side effects—the ones you can see listed on TV every night if you watch the nightly news.

What looks to be a critique of the pharmaceutical industry early on morphs into a thriller in the second half. It also becomes Jude Law’s movie rather than Rooney Mara’s as the doctor seeks to save himself from the forces that come down on him. Things we thought we knew about all our characters change.

There was a lot to like in the film but some major problems for me as well. On the plus side: Mara continues to impress us as an actor. And Jude Law continues to add depth to his characterizations. Lots of things you saw in the first half gain meaning in the second. It tells it story in snappy way. Click, click, click. It looks good, sounds good.

But on the negative side, Zeta-Jones doesn’t seem to know how to play her part. Has she been directed to seem so unsure of herself? Does she have to be dressed like a black widow spider? The biggest problem for me though would spoil the movie for you. And it’s possible it won’t be a concern.

A moderate recommendation for SIDE EFFECTS.

I would have liked to have seen Soderberg go out with a better film since he says this is his last feature film. MAGIC MIKE from last summer might have been a better swan song. But any director who made THE INFORMANT, OCEAN’S ELEVEN, THE LIMEY, OUT OF SIGHT and SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE has had a good run.

Patti