The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Side Effects | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Side Effects

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones, Vinessa Shaw

A young woman murders her husband while under the influence of an experimental prescription drug.

After serving four years for insider trading, Martin (Tatum) is released from prison and reunited with his wife Emily (Mara). When she seemingly attempts suicide by driving into a wall, Emily is ordered to attend sessions with psychiatrist Jonathan (Law). He consults her former psychiatrist, Victoria (Zeta-Jones), who suggests an experimental anti-depressant drug known as Ablixa. Initially reluctant, Jonathan prescribes the drug to Emily after a second suicide attempt. Her mood seems to improve but the drug has some side effects, including sleepwalking. One day, while seemingly in a trance, Emily stabs her husband to death. The media focus on the fact that she was under the influence of Ablixa, damaging Jonathan's psychiatry career. Unconvinced of Emily's innocence, he sets out to prove her guilt and clear the damage done to his name.
If Soderbergh is to be believed, 'Side Effects' will be his last theatrically released feature. He still has the TV movie 'Behind the Candelabra' to come later this year on HBO. It could be argued of course that he's been making TV movies for quite a while now. Over the past half decade he's been directing an average of two films a year, and it's all too apparent in their shoddiness. The New York Observer critic, Rex Reed, summed Soderbergh up perfectly when he described his films as "like first drafts for better movies one hopes another director will someday make". His most recent films have utilized horrifically cheap looking digital video, giving every image a sickening yellowish hue, akin to watching a movie through a urine sample. 'Side Effects' is no different.
Once you can get past the ugly aesthetic, the film's first act is thoroughly gripping as Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns examine the moral vacuum that is the pharmaceutical industry and the dangers of prescription drug addiction. Struggling to pay for his lavish lifestyle, Law accepts the extra money offered to prescribe a drug which is still very much at its beta stage. It seems the director is going out with an interesting project. Unfortunately, the second act takes a shift into second-rate thriller territory and feels like a pilot for a TV show about a crime-solving psychiatrist. Comparisons have bizarrely been made to Hitchcock. The only remote connection I could make was the unreliable narration of 'Stage Fright'. Here, we see images in the first act which are contradicted later, like the blood-stained walls of the opening scene which lead us to believe the killing is far more grisly than it actually turns out to be. As far as suspense, Hitch's stock and trade, is concerned, well there simply isn't any. We are placed in the shoes of Law, and only acquire information as he does. Suspense requires the viewer to be one step ahead of the central character, not one step behind.
Some may mourn the loss to cinema of Soderbergh. This writer won't.
Side Effects (2013) on IMDb 7.6/10