Side Effects Starts Promising, Ends Ridiculously

Posted by Greg on Feb 9, 2013 in Movies |

Leave it to provocateur Steven Soderbergh to muck up a potentially tremendous film. Side Effects, the latest from the director of Traffic, Haywire and countless others, takes a potentially convincing story and railroads it to pieces. How exactly the film has gotten such rave reviews befuddles me.

Whether the fault goes to the heavy-handed Soderbergh (who seems to release 2-3 films a year these days) or the ham-handed Scott Z. Burns screenplay, but Side Effects is an absolute mess. Though it does feature fine performances from Jude Law and Rooney Mara, the film jumps the shark at least twice and absolutely shatters a diatribe against the health care industry. Whereas Contagion had a way of staying within itself, Side Effects does exactly the opposite.

The film centers around Emily Taylor (Mara), a 28-year-old graphic designer for a Manhattan ad agency. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading. The couple centers on trying to rebuild their life, but Emily’s lingering depression threatens to derail their marriage. Emily begins seeing Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), and begins taking Prozac. Frustrated with how little the Prozac helps, she begins taking Ablixa.

And then the rug is pulled out from her –– and the viewer. After Emily is arrested for murder, Dr. Banks dives into her past and uncovers her relationship with Dr. Victoria Seibert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Greenwich psychiatrist who treated her before she moved to Manhattan. But Dr. Seibert’s involvement in Emily’s life stretches far deeper than it appears on the surface. Aware of this, Dr. Banks attempts to put together the jigsaw puzzle. And it is here that Side Effects loses total control. Even winning performances from Zeta-Jones (a villain, shocker!), Mara and Law can’t rescue this disaster.

And as the final credits begin to roll, one begins to ponder this very simple and succinct thought: will Soderbergh ever create a film as amazing as Traffic? These days, it’s becoming harder to believe. Just spend 100 minutes with Side Effects and see.

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