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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Side Effects | Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones | Review

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Side Effects

Without knowing more than the title, I thought Side Effects was going to be a sci fi thriller. Although far from it, I wasn't the least bit disappointed when the film turned out to be a satisfying, provocative, Hitchock-like thriller involving a timely and controversial subject matter.

What is disappointing, and that is if he really stands by his word, is director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, The Girlfriend Experience, Magic Mike) proclaiming Side Effects as his last feature film. If true, he goes out on the top of his game, as this is one of his best flicks in years.

Rooney Mara, who gave a breakout, Oscar nominated performance in 2011's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, stars opposite Jude Law and they both deliver terrific performances.

Mara once again portrays a dark and brooding character. This go around she embodies the role of Emily Taylor, a 28 year old woman with a history of depression whose husband Martin (Channing Tatum in what is essentially a small role, but pertinent to the plot) has just been released from prison after serving 4 years for insider trading. His arrival home sparks some strange behavior in Emily that leads to a suicide attempt.

Landing in the hospital after driving her car into a wall, Emily is seen by Dr. John Banks (Law) a psychiatrist who puts her on a new (fictitious) antidepressant called Ablixa, for which he is being paid a nice sum of money to conduct a clinical trial.  The problem is, there appears to be some nasty side effects causing Emily to sleep walk and do things she can't recall when she wakes up.  

Cooking in her sleep is one thing, but when Emily takes a huge kitchen knife and stabs her unsuspecting husband numerous times, she finds herself on trial for his murder.  The question then comes to light, who is responsible for her actions, the doctor that prescribed the medication, or his patient? And what about the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug? How libel are they regardless of the warnings on the label?

Someone must be punished. So when his colleagues distance themselves from him, Dr. Banks, who is also afraid of being charged with medical malpractice, takes it upon himself to dig deeper into his patient's history. His investigation takes him to Emily's former shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (a bespeckled, stern Catherine Zeta Jones) which opens the door to some unexpected twists and turns.

Writer Scott Z. Burns, who previously collaborated with Soderbergh on thrillers Contagion and The Informant! meticulously unravels a smart, well executed script where there is more than meets the eye. Revealing more would spoil it.

Thought provoking on many levels, there is a lot to be said about Side Effects.  Touching on the controversy surrounding overly prescribed anti depressants, those who take it, and the greedy medical industry, this  psychological thriller is the perfect prescription for curing the pre Oscar movie doldrums.


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