Side Effects – Review
March 31, 2013 1 Comment
Film Review by FilmFellaJames – 7/10
So Steven Soderbergh reckons that this is his last film. A damn shame if you ask me because this film shows no signs of a director with waning flair. Soderbergh is bang on the money in this pharmaceutical thriller starring Britain’s golden Boy, Jude Law and Rooney Mara. (Not to be confused with Wayne Rooney, a shrek-looking football maestro.)
What’s it all about then?
Well the movie opens at the scene of a crime, a casual and deliberately slow meandering tracking shot of blood on a floor. In true Hitchcock style, Soderbergh then takes us on a journey of discovery down a tricky road punctuated with twists and turns as we are drawn into the question of whodunit? Jude Law is Dr Jonathan Banks, a happy and intelligent British gentleman shrink, with all of the best intentions at heart. He is on a roll in regards to his job, recently been assigned to test out a new drug on patients willing to give it a whirl and for his efforts he will be paid a handsome sum, enough at least to keep his step son in private school, which in the US costs the bomb. He meets with a patient referred to him as a result of a suicide attempt, Emily Taylor, Rooney Mara and then gets drawn into a horrible twist of fate as a result of the side effects of the drug he has prescribed Emily that threatens his job, reputation and bank account. Galvanised by a powerful desire to get his dollars back and salvage his crippled relationship with his partner, Dierdre Banks, Vinessa Shaw, Dr Jonathan then turns his hand at being a detective to put together all of the pieces so as to reveal the truth behind the mystery that is his patient Emily. Throw Catherine Zeta-Jones in as Dr Siebert, Emilys previous shrink, and what you got is a sophisticated and intelligent look into the ruthless world of money making, pharmaceutical style, raising a few eyebrows in the process. To go into more detail would only ruin the magic of the movie, so in short, lets call it a murder mystery movie set in a world of rich ruthless assholes. That’s Side Effects.
Is it any good?
Absolutely. Soderbergh has a rich reputation. He is the man responsible for gems such as Erin Brockovich, Solaris, Out of Sight, The Good German, The Informant, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Che, Traffic, the Oceans Eleven movies and recently Magic Mike. The guy is a legend of clever, complex storytelling and this film is moulded in similar fashion. It comes across as a more understated film in comparison to some of the more robust films Soderbergh has delivered over the last 15 years but it certainly doesn’t lose any of his trademark skill in terms of how the movie looks and develops with the aid of some damn fine acting courtesy of the charismatic genius that is Jude Law. For this particular reviewer he held the movie together in a way that Catherine Zeta-Jones never could. He adds multiple dimensions within his role making British counter part Zeta-Jones look pedestrian and ordinary. Mr Law has the ability to really engage with the characters he plays and that draws the audience in, so if you are thinking that this film might be too thinky for you, then think again because he renders the more intelligent elements of the film with such cool authority that he actually keeps you involved as you end up empathising with his plight. This is something that Jude Law does really well. He sells you on the character and despite minor failings within the film, such as Zeta-Jones inclusion, you remain with him side by side until the end. That’s good acting. Rooney Mara is also superb in this film. She conveys the mood and desperation of a person crippled by anxiety and depression really well, even if that meant she had to look kinda moody and detached throughout, something that if handled incorrectly, would conjure resentment within the viewer because the subject matter is tough enough on its own. However for her part, she nailed the task that Soderbergh set for her and as a result I now rate her as a talent to look out for. She ain’t your typical Hollywood leading lady, but she has something magical about her and as a result I was drawn into the plot and motivation of the film because of her excellent delivery. Channing Tatum also surprised, again, this guy is on top form but I prefer him in action movies.
Is there any shiteness?
Yep, there always is with a Soderbergh movie, but it’s forgiveable shite. For instance, the world wherein this film is set, upper class America. I hate upper class America. It’s so pretentious and deliberately so that sometimes it makes me gag. Everyone in this film is garnished in designer labels, live in plush surroundings and their only real issues are money motivated. This can undermine a lesser film cast in a similar ilk, but Soderbergh has always handled the subject matter well within these worlds, just enough to keep you engaged. I guess that’s smart and Soderbergh is a very smart film-maker, so I forgive it.
Secondly, Zeta-Jones. She disappoints me all the time, but then I’m still hung up on her from the Darling Buds of May, so maybe I’m just giving her a raw deal, but, then again, she is the ultimate in upper class America, she is married to Michael Douglas after all. It don’t come more upper class America than that. Maybe I’m just jealous. I wouldn’t have said no to Michael Douglas either, that’s some Hollywood royalty right there however, for me, she just seems to be playing herself, albeit a doctor in this one, it just didn’t stretch her ability. She never stretches her ability. Maybe she has no other ability, maybe she is destined to play a rich bitch for the rest of her life. But, now that Soderbergh has hung up his megaphone, who is going to cast her in movies? They are pals after all, bad times Jones.
Thirdly, America, if you you believe what is said in this film, is a nation on drugs. Lots of drugs. Lots. They have crazy names like Zoloft and Ablixa. Pharmaceuticals are big business in the states and the regulation of these drugs as portrayed in this film is like a chemical free for all. With the right amount of money it would seem that corruption and dirty dealings are as common as fuck and permeate every area of life for people living in America. The land of the free is a land of loose morality and distorted reality as everyone is tripping the light fantastic while the business bods behind it all rub their filthy grubby hands at the prospects of keeping the desperate public in check with the aid of an expensive prescription. America is clearly doing it wrong when it comes to the reliance on a plethora of medication, that kinda makes me glad that I live in Britain, where medication is carefully monitored and only the most reliable meds prescribed to the suffering public in most instances. This however becomes a criticism of the reality of the world we live in, not necessarily the world wherein this movie is set, so it’s forgiveable.
I’m gutted that Soderbergh has chosen a life as a painter rather than a film maker but I suspect that maybe, sometime in the future, Soderbergh will return, and we will all have something to talk about again. God speed Soderbergh you clever fucker, catch you on da flip flop. If you like a thriller with twisty turning plot points and well timed shocks, then Side Effects may be the film for you. If you were expecting a more highly convoluted world akin to Resident Evil, then go watch something else. This thriller delivers in lines, not action set pieces. A calm and meticulous look at the ‘side effects’ of medicine in America. Well played Soderbergh, well played sir.