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Movie Review: Acting, directing shine in 'Side Effects'
Feb 08, 2013 | 1927 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rooney Mara in Side Effects | Open Road Films
Rooney Mara in Side Effects | Open Road Films


Clipper Film Correspondent

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.

Starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Polly Draper.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Written by Scott Z. Burns.

GRADE: ***

Steven Soderbergh has had a unique and eclectic career directing films over the past two decades. From his roots as an independent filmmaker (Sex, Lies and Videotape) to the quirky comedies (Oceans 11, 12, 13) to the serious dramas (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Contagion) to the tediously boring (Solaris), Soderbergh has been prolific, yet never the same. His latest movie Side Effects proves he can branch out into other genres as well.

 Rooney Mara stars as Emily, married to Martin (Channing Tatum), an insider-trading convict on the verge of being released from a five-year prison sentence. When he gets home, Emily is suddenly overcome with depression and crashes her car into a parking garage wall in an apparent suicide attempt. While in a hospital emergency room, Emily meets Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist assigned to check on her mental status. Over the next six months, Emily continues to visit Dr. Banks, who also consults with Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta- Jones), a psychiatrist who treated Emily shortly before her marriage to Martin.

As Dr. Banks treats Emily, he tries a series of antidepressant drugs, most of which have unpleasant side effects on the patient. Dr. Seibert recommends a new drug, one that has been gaining popularity though national advertisements.


After trying the new drug, Emily begins to have bouts of sleepwalking. One night when Martin returns home, she stabs and kills him while in an unconscious state.

During her murder trial, Dr. Banks' methods and treatment are called into question, along with the new drug he prescribed for her. Emily's case gains national attention, and even though Dr. Banks helps win a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict, his reputation is ruined as Emily enters a mental hospital.

But something does not add up for Dr. Banks and he begins to dig a little deeper into the drug, Dr. Siebert, and Emily's mental condition. As his investigation grows, Dr. Banks loses his career and family. He also discovers that he may have been the victim of an elaborate, sinister plot.

Side Effects is a clever film, and not at all what I expected. Like other “cause” films directed by Soderbergh (Traffic, Contagion, Erin Brockovich), I thought the movie was going to be a condemnation of the rampant use of antidepressants. It turned out to be a more of a film-noir murder mystery, with several plot twists and turns, keeping the audience guessing.

While I enjoyed the Side Effects, the movie did tend to slow down a lot in the middle, especially after the murder trial and during Emily's stay in the mental hospital. Even so, Soderbergh's style and talent for creating tension come through rather well as the film progresses toward a surprise ending. Rooney Mara does a fine job in a complex role, while Jude Law turns in another solid performance. 

There are a few short scenes of nudity/sexuality in Side Effects, along with some bloody violence and a fair amount of bad language. 

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