Side Effects (2013)

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , ,

Side Effects (2013)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum

The doctor/patient relationship is one built on trust. Each side trusts that the other is being completely truthful, that no ulterior motives exist within the things we confide to one another. The patient trusts that the medication he/she is taking will do what it says it will, or that changing the dosage will provide a more stable day-to-day existence. They assume that their physician is not committing malpractice by using them as a means to further some selfish cash-grabbing scheme. The doctor trusts that his/her patient has all the symptoms they say they do, and that they aren’t just some junkie looking for a new high. When it comes to medicine, honesty can mean the difference between life and death.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) welcomes her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) home from prison, where he has spent the last four years for insider trading. When they get home, they try to have sex. Martin can’t seem to keep up his end of the bargain, so to speak. Despite having her significant other home, Emily can’t seem to shake herself out of depression. She makes a scene at a party and, a few days later, deliberately crashes her car into a parking garage wall. Her new psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) puts her on a number of different anti-depressants, none of which seem to alleviate her dark state of mind. After consulting with her previous psychiatrist, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Jonathan considers a new experimental drug called Ablixa, but doesn’t commit to it until after Emily’s second suicide attempt. One of the side effects of Ablixa is sleepwalking, which leads to a terrible incident that threatens to irrevocably change the lives of both Emily and Jonathan.

Rooney Mara continues to make her mark in Hollywood, and I’m actually more impressed with her performance here than her Oscar-nominated role in 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That film saw her adopt both an appearance and a personality that ran contrary to who she is in real life. She doesn’t have to dress differently here, but she still demonstrates an amazing range. Her best scenes are towards the end, when the truth finally rises to the surface.  As Victoria, Catherine Zeta-Jones is appropriately cold, just the sort of distant personality one would expect out of a doctor. Jude Law is… Jude Law. Although we are drawn into his character’s obsessive quest for authenticity in the case of Emily Taylor, Law’s performance is unremarkable.

“Side Effects” is one of those movies that keeps you guessing. I love a mystery, and I generally applaud any film that preys upon my expectations, however sometimes the execution results in a disappointing payoff. This is one of those times. Up until the proverbial blindfold is removed from the audience’s eyes, I had been hoping that the movie would serve as a commentary on the American Health Care system. Had it gone to that place, I think we might have heard “Side Effects” spoken of during Oscar time. Instead, we are left with a plot that would seem right at home on an average episode of “Law & Order.” Those familiar with that TV show or any of its spin-offs will be able to spot the formulaic twist before it has the chance to reveal itself. Despite this misstep, “Side Effects” is a mostly great movie. You shouldn’t expect to come away having learned some great life lesson, but do expect great things from rising star Rooney Mara.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s