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Side Effects– Movie Review

Submitted by on February 22, 2013 – 12:04 pmNo Comment
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Steven Soderbergh‘s Side Effects is an edge-of-your seat thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. But much like the mysterious woman at its center, Side Effects isn’t necessarily what you expect walking in- and the adventure maybe takes away from any social commentary the movie offers.

The movie begins centered on Emily (Rooney Mara), a young wife whose husband is getting out of prison after serving time for insider trading. But Emily’s chronic depression impedes their efforts to start over, and she begins working with a hotshot psychiatrist (Jude Law) who tries out several different medications, before putting her on a drug trial for which he is being paid handsomely. But when Emily is involved in an incident, she blames the drugs and Dr. Banks.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Side Effects is at least three movies in one, somewhat clearly divided along the act breaks: first, an intimate psychological tragedy; then, a wronged-cop vigilante mystery (albeit with a doctor instead of a cop); and finally, a heist film filtered through 1940′s pulp (or the overactive imagination of a teenage boy). Soderbergh’s technical mastery is undeniable; he delivers all of these genres pitch perfectly, but unifies the whole film with grim colors and a visual fixation on the characters at the center of the story, even as the people and places around them blur or remain unseen.

But anyone looking for a searing indictment of the pharmaceutical industry or mental health care in the US should look elsewhere. Though Side Effects certainly starts down that path, it veers wildly into good old fashioned lust and greed.

So perhaps Soderbergh sacrifices catharsis and insight for the adventure. Side Effects begins as believable as low key as Sex, Lies and Videotape; but by the end, the average viewer can relate to the caper about as well a deeply depressing version of Ocean’s Twelve. Not necessarily a bad trade off, but a different film than the beginning suggests.

Or is the caper a commentary in itself? Is the fact that Emily could use pharmaceuticals so convincingly as a screen, or that Dr. Banks could so totally abuse his power, effective criticism?

Did you see Side Effects? What do you think?

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