Movies: "Side Effects" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Side Effects"
Movies: "Side Effects"


Here’s a somewhat delayed take on one of the few grown-up movies playing during this bleak post-Oscar season, a medical thriller directed, shot and edited by Steven Soderbergh (under several assumed names, including Peter Andrews and -- my favorite -- Mary Ann Bernard).


Soderbergh, whose earlier movies have been as varied and interesting as “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Out of Sight” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” says this will be his last one.  We’ll see, but in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at it.


We first meet Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara, who starred in the US version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) as she’s visiting her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) in prison.  He’s just finishing a four-year jolt for insider trading, but his homecoming is marred by Emily’s apparently inconsolable depression.  


After she attempts suicide, Emily comes to New York psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) for treatment.  She tells him she had earlier sought counseling from another shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) before Martin was busted and they lost their posh home in Connecticut.


Dr. Banks prescribes some anti-depressants, but when they prove to have negative side effects, he’s persuaded by Dr. Siebert to try a newer drug on Emily.  That’s a big mistake, resulting in a shocking (and I mean shocking) crime that lands both doctor and patient in a world of hurt.   As the plot, scripted by Scott Z. Burns (“The Bourne Ultimatum”), twists and turns, Banks loses his practice, his wife (Vinessa Shaw) and son.  But with all that, there is very little actual suspense here.


Obviously, Soderbergh is working with some A-list actors here, but they don’t always seem to work well together.  The pairing of beefcake boy Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”) with the almost flat-line Rooney Mara just doesn’t pass the chemistry test.   How they stayed married I’ll never undertand.  I thought more highly of two supporting players:  Ann Dowd (who, according to IMDB, is one of the few actors to have roles in all four of the “Law and Order” shows) as Martin’s mother and Michael Nathanson, another prolific TV actor, in the role of an assistant DA.  Jude Law, of course, is commanding in whatever role, his facial hair demonstrating the depths of his downfall.  Zeta-Jones is all business as the other shrink.


Soderbergh shot the movie himself, and while each scene is handsomely arranged, his use of New York City backgrounds is soggy and dreary, much like our February weather has been.  The music is by Thomas Newman (“Skyfall,” “Wall-E”) and it serves the movie well.


“Side Effects” is rated R for violence and some sex scenes.  It’s probably worth your while until the next wave of movies arrives, but I give it a B-Minus.

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