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Side Effects - Movie Review

4 stars

Side Effects is supposed to be writer/director Steven Soderbergh’s goodbye to the cinema and filmmaking and while most are not convinced that he can successfully fade away we have to, at this point, take him at his word.  And what a head trip through style and substance murder-noir storytelling his finale is.  Doubling as both a thriller and a condemnation of the pharmaceutical world, this drug induced potboiler brings to a conclusion, if it is his farewell, a career marked with intelligence, paranoia, and creativity for a near homerun.

Unfortunately for those who love their happy endings, Side Effects leaves little room for hope as Soderbergh’s finale deals with his borderline apocalyptic thoughts on capitalism in the age of pharmacy.  Yes, as he’s done so often before, Soderbergh explores the gray area of life with his latest release.  The film is also full of twisty turns and smartly paced satire as one high-strung woman, Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), awaits the release of her insider trading husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), from prison with the help of a new anti-depressant.

Written by Contagion scribe Scott Burns, Side Effects deliciously plunges into the same type of paranoid atmosphere with dizzying zeal.  The names of the anti-depressants and mood stabilizers are rattled off in an intoxicating fashion.  The point is that whatever disappoints you about yourself can be treated with a prescription.  And prescribe away Dr. Banks (Jude Law) does.  Everyone’s taking something and when a new drug company dangles money in his face, Banks becomes the pill-pusher on the hunt for patients.

The consequence of so many experimental drugs on the market and the doctors paid to push them is how the movie opens.  In true Hitchcockian fashion, Soderbergh starts his film with an extended tracking shot that eventually leads into a blood-soaked apartment.  From there, our questions are not answered until the very end.  It’s an uncomfortably numb place…where fancy friends give way to primal thoughts and suicidal tendencies.  Beyond this, there is no trick and no gimmick to the film – unless you aren’t paying attenion.  Side Effects is suspense through and through and you’ll be dying to find out how its strange beginning ends.

Oh, yes, there will be blood.

This is almost the perfect role for Rooney Mara (star of David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to disappear into.  This isn’t another hyped-up role she’s taken here.  She’s a plain Jane confronted with the mood-altering aspects of one pill after another.  Mara’s hard to read and with her character’s stone (or stoned?!) expression, the hesitation from thought to speech is a paralysis in performance that proves to be intoxicating.  Beat after beat and line after line she nails a fine and a true performance of mystery as the psychological thriller spirals itself into your brain.

As far as conclusions go, Side Effects has moments where ituncannily echoes Soderbergh’s first film – the eerie sex, lies, and videotape – by placing his female lead back on a therapist’s couch.  But the similarities are all wisely timed misdirection from a confident filmmaker as the themes he weaves into the film’s structure - the compromise in a corporate-run health-care system is one – are actually only toying with our expectations.  Like Haywire before it, you should go in unsure of what to expect.  Most of Soderbergh’s films – outside of the Ocean’s Eleven capers - are best enjoyed without preconceptions.

And if it is indeed true, with the release of Side Effects, writer/director Steven Soderbergh takes his final bow at the cinemas and slides into a retirement full of art and extended television projects we wish him the best of luck.  A maestro of the medium will be missed.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

Side Effects - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, violence, and language.
106 mins.
: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Rooney Mara; Carmen Pelaez; marin Ireland; Channign Tatum; Polly Draper
Genre: Drama | Thriller
One pill can change your life.
Memorable Movie Quote: "To a lot of people, if you say insider trading, it might as well be murder."
Open Road Films
Official Site: www.sideeffectsmayvary.com
Release Date: February 8, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Synopsis: Emily and Martin are a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily's psychiatrist - intended to treat anxiety - has unexpected side effects.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

No details available.[/tab]

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