Side Effects Review

Article Header Side Effects Movie Review

Steven Soderbergh is a director whose movies I’ve never really meshed with. I didn’t see Magic Mike, but Contagion, while fascinating, plodded along at such a slow pace and didn’t do enough to make me care about its characters that I was apathetic towards it. I went into Side Effects not knowing what the movie was about, only knowing its cast and, right before I walked into the theater, that Soderbergh directed it. And I assumed it was about drugs, sweet, sweet drugs.

Rooney Mara, star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, plays Emily Taylor. Her husband Martin, played by Channing Tatum, gets out after a four year jail sentence for insider trading (I know Tatum is an intelligent man, but I find it hard to take him seriously as a high powered executive in a movie) and wants to return to the cushy life they had before. Jude Law plays Emily’s psychologist, Dr. Jonathan Banks and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays her old psychologist, Dr. Erica Siebert.

Rooney Mara, there's just something about you and I swear it's not the drugs
Rooney Mara, there’s just something about you and I swear it’s not the drugs

The film’s tagline: “One pill can change your life” led me to believe this would be a study about psychological drugs and their side effects. In fact, everything from the title to the first half of the film wanted me to think that. It’s a fascinating premise for a movie. Especially with recent events that have led to a huge spotlight being shone on the mental health care profession, Side Effects stood to really lead us down this winding road.

If that’s what you’re expecting, do not see Side Effects. Half way through it wakes a sharp left turn into cliched plot line territory, grinding everything, from the interesting questions it raised to the relationships it was building, to a halt. You’re left with a very mundane plot, with all of its moves telegraphed miles before you see them. I’m all for the tried and true formulas, but you can’t front load it with fascinating topics only to tell me that none of that actually matters and hey look it’s that movie you’ve seen 30 times already now.

That’s not to say there is anything inherently wrong with the movie. Steven Soderbergh has given us a perfectly acceptable film. Rooney Mara has done nothing but grow since she made her mass audience debut in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street and Channing Tatum wears a suit. The real main character is Dr. Banks and Lude Law gives his usual, excellent performance. It’s too bad that the material they were given ultimately leads to nowhere.

Side Effects is a clear case of a movie blowing its load early and it is a complete disappointment from everyone involved. This is coming out hot on the heels of Silver Linings Playbook, which not only is also about mental health, but some would say also ends with a stereotypical ending, but unlike Side Effects, its ending felt deserved. I can’t think of another movie that has hooked me so intensely in the first half only to completely disinterested me by the time the credits rolled. If you like those involved, you aren’t going to get a bad movie with Side Effects, but you aren’t getting anything memorable either.

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In Theaters: February 8, 2013
Runtime: 1 hr 46 min
Rating: R (for sexuality, nudity, violence and language)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones & Channing Tatum
Genre: Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Distributor: Open Road Films
Official Site: