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  Side Effects Keep Taking The Tablets
Year: 2013
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Ann Dowd, Polly Draper, David Costabile, Mamie Gummer, Peter Friedman, Laila Robins, Sheila Tapia, Russell G. Jones, Susan Gross, Michelle Vergara Moore
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: After four long years, it's finally happening: Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is seeing her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) released from prison, where he was serving a sentence for insider trading. Now he is out, she hopes life will be better, yet he cannot help but notice his wife is not her old self anymore: has all that time taken its toll on her personality? She is a lot less responsive than she used to be, and although he tries to make the best of it he cannot ignore the problem when she drives their car straight at the wall of an underground carpark. She denies it was a suicide attempt, but the doctor who sees her, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) has other ideas...

One of the last films director Steven Soderbergh made as he announced his retirement from the movie business, Side Effects was to all appearances a drama about how pharmaceutical companies were essentially medicating most of America by that point, and saw a sinister machination in their interest in providing for their ever-growing consumer base. To buy into the conspiracy theories, the more people were diagnosed with mental health disorders supposedly treatable by medication, the higher these corporations' profits would rise, so it was almost as if they were determined to have as many patients in their clutches as possible.

Therefore you could expect the doctor prescribing Emily her pills to be the villain, and as Jude Law had a native English accent that merely served to underline his apparent bad guy status in an American movie. However, though Dr Banks does indeed decide after trying out some medicine that a new brand of antidepressants is just the thing for Emily, there was a major twist which erupted about half an hour in, connected with the opening shot as the camera panned across a bloody floor, which of course had you wondering what the point of that was, and as the drama progressed whether some kind of drastic suicide attempt had been staged by the protagonist.

Yet we were only part of the way through the story when we found out the reason for that shot, and it sets the film spiralling off in another direction, leaving all those conspiracy theories looking a bit neglected as Soderbergh and his screenwriter Scott Z. Burns decided to make this a lot more personal. If anything, Side Effects began to resemble one of those Ashley Judd thrillers of a few years before, except that after a while you latched onto the fact that it wasn't Rooney Mara playing her role, but Mr Law instead. By that revelation the film was revealing twist upon twist as if it was a set of matryoshka dolls, lifting up the top of one to expose yet more dodgy dealings inside which Banks had to negotiate.

So what had started out like a sober examination of a worrying real life trend wound up as a pastiche of those nineties thrillers which often revolved around a conniving female, or at least you would hope it was a pastiche, for those efforts were often criticised for misogyny in their application of vintage film noir devices to modern day, and often far more sexualised, suspense pieces. If it wasn't, then that was a disappointment, for there was not much to recognise as Soderbergh or his cast winking at the audience once it reached the latter stages, and the homosexual element was peculiar enough to have you baffled as to why an ostensibly gay-friendly director would have included it. Though the tone throughout was deceptively restrained, Side Effects was actually more of a delirious melodrama and every bit as sensible as that sounded: you started off accepting its authority, and that might last till the end where you twigged that the ins and outs of the legal system surely would not work that way. So it was all very daft in its straightfaced manner. Music by Thomas Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Steven Soderbergh  (1963 - )

Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.

Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.

 
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