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“Side Effects” – Review (POSITIVE)

February 17, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 6.14.11 PMSteven Soderbergh’s has been discussing retirement for a while now, and now we’ve finally come to the near end of the line. As he’s stated, his last movie will be the Liberace biopic, “Behind the Candelabra” starring Michael Douglas & Matt Damon. Sadly, his final film will be airing only on your TV screens on the good old fashion HBO. So, his last theatrical release is “Side Effects”, and being his last theatrical film, is it worth the time and energy to see? Well, if you’re a fan of Soderbergh’s work, whether it be the “Ocean’s 11, 12, 13” films or his ultra-low budget indies like “The Girlfriend Experience” or his Oscar bait films like “Traffic”, or if you’re one of those horny ladies who loved “Magic Mike” and want a lil Channing Tatum action, then yes, “Side Effects” is worth your time and energy to see.

Soderbergh reunites with his “Contagion” screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, in telling a multilayered murder mystery about the effects medication can have on the sick minded or the depressed. It’s hard to tell at first, but for all intents and purposes, Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is a very depressed girl. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), has been serving a five year sentence for insider trading, she suffered a miscarriage early in her marriage, and all in all she’s not enjoying the life she leads. After a failed suicide attempt, Emily starts to visit with a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes a couple of antidepressants, until she finds the one that works for her, Ablixia. Ablixia has a side effect on Emily, causing her to do strange acts while sleepwalking, until finally one incident leads into a murder. Now a victim of biological circumstance, Dr. Banks is the target for what could be the worst medical backlash in his field.

Much to what “Contagion” did, “Side Effects” is an exploitation film of sorts, by exploiting the manic depressed and the criminally insane. What is considered a crime and what isn’t; will they or won’t they get away with murder because of a simple chemical reaction. The movie ponders that question over a large portion of the time, but once things start to unfold, the film takes it into account why it made it deemed necessary to exploit these questions. It cleverly switches gears by the third Act, leading down a mysterious path our lead Doctor protagonist finds himself following. I don’t wanna give away spoilers, but it makes a very good discussion about economical decisions and financial gain from both ends of the spectrum.

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 6.51.29 PMIf there’s anything I can say about Soderbergh’s movies that stand out the most, is he knows how to cast such a dynamic group of actors. I’m not much of a Jude Law fan, but since “Sherlock Holmes”, something about him now seems appealing to see in movies like these. He played a brilliant scumbag in “Contagion”, which I though would’ve earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, here he’s in a lead role for Soderbergh, like a detective almost. Rooney Mara continues to prove that she is a very talented actress making her mark as best as she can. She plays the depressed role to a tee, it’s impressive if you ask me, and her chemistry with just about everyone is fantastic. Even Channing Tatum, with such a minor supporting role given to him, finds a way to make it work, this is third film with Soderbergh and while his best remains to be “Magic Mike”, he seems to be in good hands with a filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh.

For some, I think the twist ending may be a bit hard to swallow for some people, personally I found it to be an excellent twist, but there’s no denying that it’s a tad ridiculous. Not to mention how they wrap it all up so quickly and shove it all right in front of you. That may be the only real weak link to this film, the pacing is a tad slow, but it’s expected to the aesthetic style Soderbergh is known for. We’ve got a movie here that looks beautiful in every frame, Peter Andrews (Soderbergh’s pseudonym) cinematography is fine work of art, much like Roger Deakin’s work, every frame to me is like a beautiful painted canvas. In the end, “Side Effects” is a smart, clever thriller with plenty of unsettling twists and a great cast to go along with it, still it sucks that Soderbergh is ending it all. Hopefully he’ll be back, there’s not a single movie of his I’ve missed and not liked.

GRADE: A-

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