In a world of special effects, overly dramatic music, doomsday plots and a barrage of any number of assault weapons obliterating many of today’s films, it’s refreshing to have a movie dependent solely upon script and acting. Such a movie is director Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects”–a fast-moving, thought-provoking thriller. He and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, “Side Effects” deliver a frill-free film with terrific performances from all involved.
After a disturbing opening, we go back three months in time where Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is nervously anticipating the release from prison of her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum). While Martin, imprisoned for insider trading shortly after their marriage is looking forward to new business opportunities and getting on with their life together, Emily is in a different place. Anxious about his return, she finds herself in the hospital following a suicide attempt in her apartment building garage. In the hospital she meets psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). He reluctantly agrees to her discharge after receiving a promise from her to see him privately for treatment. As a result, Banks consults with Emily’s former psychiatrist, Dr. Erica Seibert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), to discuss potential courses of therapy. Seibert had treated Emily briefly for depression and anxiety following Martin’s imprisonment. That conversation leads to a prescription for medication and directs the course of action for the remainder of the movie. To say much more would take away from the enjoyment of the film.
In addition to being a thriller, “Side Effects” offers the audience some interesting questions to ponder. With a plethora of drugs from which to choose, how do doctors decide which one to prescribe—how much do non-medical considerations enter into the equation. If something goes wrong, who is actually to blame… the doctor, the pharmaceutical company…and to what extent?
“Side Effects” provides Rooney Mara with the opportunity to showcase another side of her acting personality and she seizes it. So tough and strong in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” her Emily is the exact opposite in this film. Jude Law gives one of his best performances in quite some time. He finally has a role into which he can sink his teeth. The same thing can be said for Catherine Zeta-Jones. It’s been too long since she’s been given a decent part and”Side Effects” puts an end to that drought. Channing Tatum continues his streak of good performances. He has proven to have a very likeable screen presence.
“Side Effects” will put your brain to work and keep you entertained. That’s the ultimate side effect a movie can provide.