Side Effects Review: Soderbergh’s Silver Screen Swan Song?

side_effects_soderberg_mara_jude_law_ablixaSteven Soderbergh keeps saying he is nearing the end of his directing days when suddenly his name gets attached to something but as of right now Side Effects appears to be his final directorial piece to grace theaters.  The question now is if Soderbergh went out on a good note with Side Effects.

A brief introduction to Side Effects is as follows:  Soon after Emily Taylor’s (Rooney Mara) husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is released from prison for insider trading her behavior become bizarre to the point she appears to try to commit suicide by driving her into a concrete wall.  While escaping uninjured from the incident she meet a respected psychiatrist, Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who begin puts her on medicine and meets with her periodically.  This prescription however seems to make her moods worse.  A co-workers tells Emily about a new drug on the market and after consulting her former doctor, Dr Victoria Siebert, Dr Banks write her this new subscription that causes her to sleepwalk and commit a heinous crime that puts Emily and Dr Banks in trouble with the law.  Click here for the trailer.

(Warning the following paragraph contains minor S P O I L E R S)

Side Effects tells an interesting story with a lot of tide changes.  At first you feel very sympathetic for Emily.  She is in a troubled place emotionally as she ponders what awaits her when her husband gets out of jail and starts talking about opportunities to get back to where they once were financially.  She is happy Martin is back in her life but you can see the passion is not quite what it was at least under Dr Banks who comes off as arrogant and influenced to diagnose patients to take a new prescription drug that is offering him money to test on patients.  I will not give away any twists but it is amazing to see the reversal in circumstances and the audience goes from pulling for one character to start to hope for their downfall then the one you were suspicious of becomes the actual protagonist.


I will be the first to admit that I do not like most of Soderbergh’s films although I do like the way they are shot.  To be honest I cannot pin point why.  But I have always liked his choice for camera angles where you are almost always looking up at the characters during dialogue.  That may sound like a weird thing to appreciate but it keeps me more focused on the character and does a better job of what the actors are trying to bring to the scene.

The acting is so-so at best.  Rooney Mara tip-toes one being overly subtle or bland with Emily’s emotions in the first half of the movie.  Half way through the movies I thought that could she really be playing this role that plain but the second half of the movie is where she shows the talent she displayed in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Jude Law is phenomenal as always the whole way through the movie.  He nails the arrogant and secure doctor that at the flip of the switch he becomes relentlessly vengeful and paranoid.  As for Tatum, there is not a more popular actor today that could deliver his lines more flat especially here in Side Effects.  As for Zeta-Jones, I could not see much of her acting behind those ridiculous giant framed glasses.

Overall, Side Effects delivers what most Soderbergh will expect of a taut dramatic thriller.  As someone who is not keen on of his movies usually, I was plessantly surprised by how good of a thriller it was but I still had my issues with the pacing and chopping editing.  I give Side Effects a 7/10.

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