Review: Side Effects (2013, Steven Soderbergh)

side-effects-image10RATING: 7/10

Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Cast: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Polly Draper, Ann Dowd
Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns

So far in 2013 hasn’t offered us much mainstream films that include acting dynamites. But with “Side Effects”, director Stephen Soderbergh was able to deliver and pull out numerous outstanding performances from the ensemble of his newest psychological thriller. Especially for his two leading actors. If you know me well, I wasn’t too keen on “Magic Mike” (2011), I found it difficult to sit through, and found Channing Tatum uncharismatic for the lead performance. Though I still feel that way about the Tatum-Soderbergh collaborations, Soderbergh proves he can bring out terrific emotional depth with seasoned performers. This is what made “Side Effects”, the movie that it is.

From an original screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, who has been giving us (more or less) okay films in his short career, we follow the story of Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a depressed woman living with her husband Martin (Channing Tatum). Martin, has recently been released from prison, and in order to cope with all the pressures that she feels, Emily stars seeing Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Banks soon prescribes to her an anti-depresent drug in which has side effects that will change the course of everyone’s lives forever.

Though the story may sound simple, the story of “Side Effects” becomes rather complicated with all its twists and turns. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard to understand, but it’s really something you need to sit down and watch quietly. But that’s a good thing, because “Side Effects” plays with your mind as a film. The effective performances gives the film the human factor that it needs to become believable. Jude Law and Rooney Mara shine in their performances. At this point of the year, I think it is a safe choice to say they’ve delivered two of the finest lead performances in a film for 2012 (SO FAR).

Jude Law has his hits and misses as an actor. But in my opinion, he is generally very talented. “Side Effects” (though he’s introduced maybe around 20 minutes into the flick) seems to be a great leading role that really showcases what Mr. Law is made of. He creates an complex character, with a drive that we can feel from the screen. Mara does the same thing, she brings alive Emily Taylor, the apparent star of the picture. Taylor’s disgusting attitude and weird mind plays well on Mara as she embodies the disturbed woman. Though it doesn’t even compare closely to her performance in 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, Mara branches out to a less-makeup driven performance that satisfies the audience of the “Side Effects” to the highest possible way. She was a perfect leading lady. Catherine Zeta-Jones is her usual self, good but not outstanding.

The way that the film was presented is a plus point. With the subject matter, Soderbergh’s usual choice of monochromatic cinematography fit the entire narrative well. Burns’ script isn’t exactly flawless, but it is what it is. It’s a compelling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, after 2013, “Side Effects” will be put aside and hardly remembered as a great Soderbergh picture. Even “Magic Mike” has a bigger chance in the “iconic” category. The film isn’t exactly forgettable, but it’s nowhere near being truly memorable. But still, “Side Effects” is out for the world to enjoy if one is interested in a well acted, structured psychological thriller that will shock you in the right places.

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