Friday, February 8, 2013

Side Effects Movie Review

Jude Law & Catherine Zeta-Jones (r) star in Side Effects

From our friends at DC Film Review...

Side Effects: Don't Bring Me Down

It doesn’t take long to figure out someone has an agenda in Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Side Effects. That someone turns out to be Soderbergh, as he takes aim at the pharmaceutical industry for the first half of his movie, before giving way to a clever whodunit that manages to shake off its early doldrums (and win this reviewer’s heart.)

Side Effects opens with a blood stained apartment, followed by the dreaded, “Three months earlier...” where Martin (Channing Tatum) is finishing up a four year jail sentence for insider trading (how cliché, doesn’t anyone go to jail for something interesting anymore?) His wife Emily (Rooney Mara) insists they ‘take it slow,’ which Soderbergh unfortunately takes literally. The first 30-40 minutes tends to crawl by, as Emily battles depression; and Soderbergh launches an infomercial against the over-prescribing of America.

‘I hope these things work’ remarks Emily as she dives into 100 MG tablets of Zoloft (with a vodka seltzer chaser) the perfect remedy for trying to kill yourself by driving into a parking lot wall. Dashing shrink Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) takes Emily on as a patient, and soon “upgrades” her to an experimental drug (one he just happens to be getting paid $50K to peddle.) All the while, Soderbergh reminds us of how easy it is to “drug out” legally.

‘The advantage of having a husband who can write prescriptions,’ notes Mrs. Banks (Vinessa Shaw... what a clever spelling) after asking her hubby for something to “take the edge off” before a job interview (to think I used to practice yoga.) Her ‘Is it bad that I take this?’ follow-up actually made me laugh. Maybe Tom Cruise was on to something, during that controversial Today show segment with Matt Lauer.

When baby Banks (a second or third grader at least) interrupts an amore break in the middle of the night, ‘Mommy, I was having a bad dream. Do I have to dream when I sleep?’ I half expected Law’s character to toss a bottle of Prozac his way. It goes on and on, with character after character whining about dreams, lumps and losing jobs. When did America get so weak? Soderbergh’s answer seems to be prescription drugs.

Just as I was beginning to zone out, something BIG happens... Banks prefers to say ‘There’s been an incident.’ This takes the movie in a decidedly different (and better) direction, as the tables are turned and Law’s Banks finds himself under the microscope. What follows is Soderbergh at his best. Law is terrific, ‘Maybe I am a genius!’ while Mara shakes off the blues long enough to unleash her immense talent as an actress. Tatum plays it low-key with positive results, while Catherine Zeta-Jones adds sufficient spice as Emily’s former doctor and pseudo-consultant to Dr. Banks.

If you like twists and turns, and can stomach the film’s slower first half... Side Effects becomes a darn good film. I didn’t like getting hit over the head with the anti-drugs message throughout; but Soderbergh’s finish more than makes up for it.

Grade: B