Steven Soderbergh is back with yet another movie. Last year he came out with HAYWIRE and MAGIC MIKE (which I thought was his best film in years!). Even if I don’t like his flims (CHE!, CONTAGION, THE GOOD GERMAN), at least I find them interesting. He is easily our most ambitious filmmaker working today, and not just because of the amount of movies he produces, but also in how he tackles just about every type of genre and style. It’s pretty cool. I get excited whenever I hear he’s coming out with a new movie. And with SIDE EFFECTS, it sounds like that this be his last theatrical film for awhile (he said he is taking a sabbatical). But anyway, onto his latest picture…
Rooney Mara plays Emily, a young woman who is married to man named Martin (Channing Tatum), who is just getting out of prison (he was a thief). Since Martin was in prison, Emily has been going through severe bouts of depression and has even seen a psychiatrist. But now that her husband is back home, everything is going to be fine, right? Wrong! Emily has an episode in which she suddenly drives her car into a cement wall. Her injuries are minor, but her family is concerned for her well-being. She ends up seeing Dr. Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes her some medication. She begins to experience side effects, which is normal… right? Wrong! Things go from bad to worse as she continues to take her medication. This causes much friction between Emily and Martin. And through all of these hardships, Dr. Banks is trying to find a way to truly help Emily……. and that’s all you’re going to get out of me.
The best way to watch this movie is going into it cold. Try not to watch too many (if any) advertisements for SIDE EFFECTS. The enjoyment from this film comes from not knowing where it’s going. From the synopsis I just wrote, it kind of sounds like some sappy melodrama, but Soderbergh approaches the material sort of like a thriller. The overall tone and atmosphere is that of a Hitchcock movie. Kind of like MARNIE (which was also a psychological drama). The movie also switches focal points about halfway through to Jude Law’s character, which could have been disastrous, but Soderbergh pulls this off without a hitch. Either way you cut it, this is one compelling flick.
Rooney Mara is absolutely sensational here as Emily. Her character feels absolutely genuine and complete. I bought everything about her. She looks like an ordinary pretty actress, but she’s really got the chops. GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was no fluke. She’s the real deal. I think her performance her is definitely Oscar worthy (I also think I’m falling in love with her….). Channing Tatum is proving himself to be a real legitimate actor with each and every film he’s in. I’m really starting to like this guy. And he does solid work here. This is probably Jude Law’s best performance in a long while. You really see his struggle as he puts in an enormous amount of effort to help Emily. Also, Catherine Zeta-Jones has some highlighted moments as a doctor who used to treat Emily. So yes, strong performances from all.
Soderbergh continues to impress me. With every shot he composes here, he is showing me that he is NOT tired of filmmaking. After countless films, he still seems like he’s a hungry filmmaker. That he loves to make movies. And that’s the real joy of watching SIDE EFFECTS. Watching Soderbergh turn this melodrama into a nail-biting psychological thriller. He’s definitely channeling Hitchcock here, and its great! But it STILL feels like a Soderbergh film. The script is brilliant in the way it unfolds its story. It constantly goes into areas you don’t expect it to. Some people will argue that it gets a little far-fetched at times, and it’s hard to argue that, but by that point the movie already had me, so I just smiled and went with it.
If you enjoy compelling psychological dramas, definitely seek this one out. The filmmaking is exhilarating, Rooney Mara gives an outstanding performance, and the script goes in unpredictable directions. SIDE EFFECTS is a great example of why we go to the movies. Let’s hope Mr. Soderbergh’s sabbatical is short-lived, cause the “filmworld” certainly won’t be the same without him. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.
– Running time: 1hr 45min.