“Side Effects” Is More
Than a Medical Thriller
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Ever read those warnings on pill bottles? Or listen to those TV commercials for prescription drugs? The potential side effects are pretty frightening. Especially when they say, “Death May Occur.”
That’s one of the taglines of a new thriller called “Side Effects,” now playing at the Tropic Cinema.
It’s directed by Steven Soderbergh, but blink and you might think Hitchcock.
This nifty little film starts off as a medical thriller, but switches gears to become a neo-noir murder mystery with more twists and turns than a ball of twine.
We have a handsome couple, Martin and Emily Taylor (Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara). However, she has much to be depressed about, her husband having disrupted their upscale lifestyle when he got sent to prison for insider trading. But he’s out now and their life seems to be getting back on track … until Emily attempts suicide by crashing her car into a wall. That gets her assigned to a psychiatrist, one Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). When antidepressants don’t seem to work, the good doctor consults with Emily’s previous shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). They decide to put her on a new drug called Ablixa, although its side effects are not entirely known. Like sleepwalking being one of them. Murder another.
There are trials, insanity pleas, ruined reputations, double crosses, skullduggery, illicit romances, false accusations, and (whew!) justice in the end.
No need to go into details. Unraveling that ball of twine is part of the fun of seeing the movie.
Director Steven Soderbergh (he gave us “Out of Sight,” “Traffic,” and “Erin Brockovich,” as well as fun capers like those “Ocean Eleven” movies) offers up this tribute to … Hitchcock? No, “Fatal Attraction” was his model. “I watched that a lot,” says Soderbergh. “That’s a very well-directed movie. Adrian Lyne knew exactly what he was doing. One of the few, to my mind, interesting aspects of the eighties were these psychological thrillers that popped up. I don’t know why they stopped being made.”
Soderbergh has directed 26 films since his 1989 debut with “sex, lies, and videotape” — the movie often credited with kick-starting the indie-film revolution. He was only 26 at the time.
Not only directing but often editing and shooting his own films, he has been quite a chameleon, jumping from genre to genre. In “Side Effects,” he more or less does that within a single movie.
Why did he undertake this twists-and-turns murder mystery set in the world of prescription medicines? “I just liked the idea of making a thriller as I near the twilight of my career!” says Soderbergh. The bald, bespectacled director is turning 50 and has announced his retirement from filmmaking in order to paint.
Our loss as moviegoers.