Side Effects
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Vinessa Shaw, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Premise: Emily and Martin were barely newlyweds when Martin was put in jail for money laundering. Four years later, he’s out and trying to reconnect with his bride who’s suffering from severe depression. When Emily’s psychiatrist prescribes medicine to treat her depression and anxiety, she begins to experience terrifying reactions to the medication. What happens next affects the lives of everyone around her. Is it her fault, or is it the result of terrible, terrible side effects?

My Review: Side Effects was not what I expected it to be. And that’s a good thing. I was expecting a “who-dun-it” mystery. Did Emily commit the murder? Is someone framing her and blaming the drugs? The trailer was severely misleading. Instead what I got was an intense psychological thriller that I really enjoyed. And voila my expectations have been exceeded.

What held this movie together through all the twists and turns was the fantastic performance from Rooney Mara as Emily. Before The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I hadn’t heard of her. I don’t even remember her from Social Network. But her performance in Dragon Tattoo was so electric, I knew she’d be someone to watch and that’s what she was in Side Effects. She brought this fragile energy to the role where you immediately felt sympathy for her. And that was the point of it all. Soderbergh had you believe one thing about her, before he flipped the scenario completely.

This movie was not only about Emily’s difficulties with medications and her having to deal with the fact she did something awful. It was also focused on her psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks. After prescribing Emily medication that has adverse side effects, his life begins to unravel when he is blamed for her reactions to the drugs. The story slowly shifts to focus on him and away from Emily. This shifting perspective helped make this thriller successful.

It’s an all-star cast with the likes of Jude Law, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but they weren’t distracting. Soderbergh found a great way of balancing the acting, with a compelling plot, and using his actors in the right way. You’re not watching Channing Tatum play Martin, you’re watching Martin struggling with his depressed wife. You actually watch these characters as their lives start to unravel instead of watching actors play a part. He casted the right people (with the exception of Zeta-Jones who seemed to be the only one out of place) I really appreciated that.

Overall, Side Effects is a great movie if you like twisty thrillers (and seriously, who wouldn’t) with complicated plots. Though it may feel familiar in some parts, it’s also frustrating and exciting and confusing and controversial. This is one instance where not being what you expect works in Soderbergh’s favor (unlike Magic Mike).



Rating: 3 ½ Stars

  1. Rob says:

    Great review! I loved the film as well and agree with you when you mentioned that the trailer and commercials were misleading. I sure hope this isn’t Soderbergh’s last feature film like he’s saying.

  2. Your review has encouraged me to see this movie. I’m on my way home to see it right now!

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