Swan songs are usually great momentous occasions, for prolific Steven Soderbergh Side Effects looks likely to be his cinematic one (Liberace TV Biopic his TV one). It seems he’s not making a lot of fuss about the occasion but should we the cinephiles be making a fuss about his Freudian neo noir farewell?
After several years Emily (Rooney Mara) a young graphic designer is finally reunited with her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) after he was released from prison for fraud. As time goes by Emily is struggling to cope finding herself falling into a state of depression and attempts to commit suicide only to find herself in the care of psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). After trying several different medications, Banks meets up with Emily’s former psychiatrist Dr Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whom under her recommendation he prescribes Emily a newly sanctioned powerful anti-depressant called Ablixia. However, as things start to look for everyone thanks to some unexpected side effects from taking Ablixia start to unravel the cost of those effect trigger a series of shocking events.
Side Effects is a slow burning dark twisted psychological thriller with its origins dipped in modern day noir. When talking about the film you have to tread carefully simply thanks to the delicately written storyline which if we talk you spill the beans on the rest of the film. Side Effects has so many twists and turns but what the film maybe doing is paying homage to the great masters like Hitchcock (Vertigo) though in reality its more a throwback to the 1990’s like an Paul Verhoeven thriller: trashy, sexualized, schlocky . The film also has a big social commentary, society’s constant urge for one pill to cure all your worries. When Side Effects kicks off you actually think your about to watch an Erin Brokovich expose of the wrong doings of the worlds pharmaceutical companies but what we get is something completely different something that is more like one of Steven Soderbergh‘s early films Sex, Lies And Video tapes.
The casting in Side Effects is fantastic, Rooney Mara nails the part of Emily to a T, she’s like a continuation of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She has mastered the troubled soul with great precision showing her vulnerability perfectly and when was the last time impressed and Jude Law where in the same sentence? A very long time! Dr Banks is the everyman, the man against the system so obsessed with proving his point he’s actually blinded by his own self indulgence. A man who has everything but also you’re left with thought can we really trust him? If there’s anyone who should be concerned about Soderbergh’s pending retirement, it’s Channing Tatum.
Soderbergh just seems to hit the right buttons and knows how to get the best out of the actor proving it’s not just all abs he does have some acting chops too. Catherine Zeta-Jones is, however, a different kettle of fish, she is the weak spot of the film, her character does feel out of place a lot of the times. Her story is mediocre thanks to the film trying to be too sophisticated in its approach and you wonder what her purpose within the film.
Side Effects maybe compelling from start ti finish but that’s typical Soderbergh but from the weak dialogue and a film that doesn’t really know what direction it wants to go will leave you frustrated. If this is really is the end of Steven Soderbergh in film it’s a crying shame he’ll leave an legacy with a film that falters at the crucial stage, did they run out of ideas? Maybe writer Scott Z Burns should do what Bradley Cooper did in Limitless get his hands on a little clear drug and everything could have been a lot better. This film will split audiences some will love it most wont but if you strip away the psychosexual well as the social commentary what you’ll get in return is an solid entertaining film in the way Steven Soderbergh does best with a heavy does of melodrama to annoy you.
★★★1/2 | Paul Devine
Crime, Thriller | USA, 2013 | 15 | 8th March 2013 (UK) | Entertainment One | Dir.Stephen Soderbergh | Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw