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From Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) comes this suspenseful and provocative tale of intrigue starring Channing Tatum, Academy Award nominees Rooney Mara and Jude Law, and Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones. After her husband (Tatum) is released from prison, Emily (Mara) begins suffering from terrifying anxiety and turns to psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Law) for help. But when Banks prescribes an experimental drug for her, the side effects have chilling and deadly consequences. Full of unexpected twists, Side Effects is the sexy psychological thriller that critics are calling "wildly unpredictable!" (Marlow Stern, Newsweek)
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This film could have been so much better. The plot is interesting and fairly intricate enough to draw you in. I think the casting was the issue. First, if you are a Tatum fan, he has nothing to do here. He barely appears and is dead early on. A little more development of Mara and Tatums's relationship might have been helpful. There is a flashback that attempts to do this but it is not fleshed out. Rooney Mara is excellent at developing her character from severely depressed to calculating. Jude Law does a good job of keeping you on the fence about just who he is. Is he a good guy? Is he a competent doctor or a little careless and money-grabbing? Perhaps he is just a little attracted to Rooney, the desperate little bird? It bothered me that Law and his wife had no chemistry and she walked at the first bump in the road. However, Zeta-Jones was the real problem for me. She was so brittle and so plastic from the beginning, not to mention more gorgeous than any doctor you've ever seen, it was a "tell"....like a clue in a card game. I suspected her immediately and therefore saw early on where the plot was going. If her character had been played as an earth mother type who had great insight, concern, and caring for her former patient, the plot twists would have been less exposed. I think the goal in this plot is to keep you thinking Law's character is flawed on several levels, and believing Mara's character is a victim of the medical community. Zeta-Jones waves a big red flag that says "hey, I'm in on the plot twist". Finally, the trap Law sets for Mara is satisfying but the ending itself seemed emotionally vacant.
As "Side effects" moves along, the plot goes a bit haywire. I still think it's a movie that is well worthwhile, but it feels more like Soderbergh's political statement on the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street/insider trading, which is fine by me, but the audience side of the equation could have been better judged. The basic idea itself is not so absurd, but is certainly carried over the top. I don't know, maybe he wants that question to be asked, how sensationalist is this? Severe drug side effects, to include bizarre behavior have been documented, and is anyone going to prove there is no unethical money made on what Wall street, the government, doctor's, and drug companies do lol. Maybe there's a deeper irony at work here. The films main weakness is the plot trips up in technical details- which Soderbergh usually pays more attention to. The plot discrepancies reduce the impact of the film as it morphs between its pharmaceutical side effect theme and its insider trading theme. It sometimes comes across as farcical- but it is no more absurd than what we see in the real world- The railroading of drugs onto the market, enthusiastic dispensal by doctors, the astronomical profits of drug companies; and the money wall street, and people on Capitol hill get on insider trading.
"Side effects" is on the extreme side, is deliberately paced (which anyone familiar with a lot of his stuff won't be surprised at) and try's to cover too much ground as it draws to its conclusion. The acceleration of events- from the slow start to the final act might leave some viewers a little confused. I still liked it better than many other recent offerings. As "Psychological Thrillers" go, this one will keep you entertained and get you thinking. I liked the concept of "side effects", and it has the crazy ending of a thriller. It was one of those movies that does'nt quite reach its full potential, and ends up being 3 or 4 stars instead of 5. I give it 3.5 stars. I'd Recommend to people who like a cerebral thriller, and to fans of Rooney Mara.
Update: I've since gotten the bluray version of this movie- and found both the sound and picture of the bluray transfer to be very good. Versus how I remember the film looking in the theater, things seem faithful to the color palette of Soderbergh, and everything is a little cleaner and clearer, so maybe they used some "DNR" in producing the bluray, but it is nothing unqualified, and in this case actually improves over what I saw in the theater.
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