Side Effects (2013)
Rated – R
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Rooney Mara is an absolute delight in Soderbergh’s Side Effects. It’s going to be hard for her to break free from her Dragon Tattoo role for the next several years, but here she’s able to control a different kind of troubled character. Mara plays Emily, a mentally unstable 28-year-old who suffers from depression and anxiety. Her husband Martin (Tatum) has just been released from prison where he’s been for the past four years on an insider-trading bust. The couple seem happy together, that is when Emily isn’t having one of her episodes.
After Emily rams her car into a wall, she sees psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law). Instead of keeping her overnight at the hospital, he believes Emily when she says she’s not going to hurt herself any further. She is very convincing, but Dr. Banks is taking a risk here on a patient he knows nothing about. The agreement is for her to visit Dr. Banks on a regular basis so he can keep track of her improvement.
Dr. Banks is a good psychiatrist who cares for his patients. He visits Emily’s former therapist, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Jones) to discuss Emily’s past and what medication Dr. Siebert has tried. This is the part of the film where Soderbergh completely takes over. We see plenty of Emily and Dr. Banks at the same time. Their characters are fully drawn out and their back-stories are revealed. Dr. Banks is taking on a few-too-many tasks for his own good just to keep up with his bills and his family.
After a shocking scene where Emily is deemed to be sleepwalking, everyone’s life is flipped upside-down. The rest of the film takes us on quite a ride and all of the dust doesn’t settle until the films final scene. It’s a very twisty, psychological thriller that will demand your attention throughout. There has been much said about this being Soderbergh’s final feature film, and if this is true it would be a fine way to retire (at the age of 50). He has provided the world with many notable films such as Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brokovich, Traffic, Contagion, Magic Mike, and more.
But back to Side Effects, I just want to point out that the commercials and trailers do not give a sufficient portrayal of what kind of film this is. This is a dark, Hitchcock-ian film with a commentary on medication such as Zoloft and Prozac. While you might find yourself scratching your head during the middle of the film, Soderbergh neatly wraps everything up at the end, to many people’s delight I can imagine. Since this seems to be the only good film in the theaters at the moment, go check it out.