Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Running time: 106 minutes
Side Effects is the first film where I have suddenly swung my arms out hitting a friend seated next to me because of a surprise plot twist. If Alfred Hitchcock were alive, it would be this kind of film he would be making, only a lot better.
Similar to Psycho, the first act leads you astray with red herrings, and the second and third act twist and turn before finally pulling the rug from underneath your feet. Frankly, by the end I was a little nauseated by all the changes in direction. It reminded me of being a passenger in a car driven by my mother.
Like my mother's driving the twists do come with a price - in the end the viewer feels as though the whole thing has become a little bit ridiculous. And in a film solely driven by its narrative it is essential that the plot remains coherent.
Alas, incoherence rules! The audience at numerous points in the film finds it hard to believe that the actions on the screen would happen in real life. The detective work of the psychiatrist (Jude Law) comes to conclusions that to him are facile to find but are a big stretch for the audience. And, of course, the release from the psychiatric ward so early seems to border on fantasy rather than the reality that the film is attempting to portray (pardon my vague statements - in order to discuss the film's incoherence I would first need to spoil many shocking twists).
The realism that the film strives for is to depict the consequences of our society's dependence on drugs. This portion of the film centres on Emily (Rooney Mara), the depressed wife of Martin (Channing Tatum) who has been imprisoned for four years. As Martin is released, Emily struggles to get by; she takes numerous drugs for her depression. It is possibly these drugs that lead to her numerous failed suicide attempts after the release of Martin from prison.
"And now for something completely different." Surprisingly, I didn't mind the film's decision to take a 180-degree turn to become a Hitchcockian thriller. This section focuses on Emily's psychiatrist's (Jude Law's) search for the cause of why the drugs are having such harsh side effects on Emily, after a tragic incident. On many occasions he visits her previous psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to see if her past behaviour will give any indication of what her future behaviour might be.
If there's anything I know about Steven Soderbergh's past behaviour, it's that I could predict that his new film Side Effects would not be the greatest of movies.
With a filmography featuring the remake of Solaris, The Informant, Contagion and Haywire, Soderbergh has been making movies I detest for a very long time. He has announced that Side Effects will be his final film before retirement. I can't say I'm really sad to see him go.
I must admit that at times the tension of Soderbergh's film had me by the throat. Sadly, by the end it decided to slit it open and I'm not very pleased.
. Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 11 student at Riverside Secondary. He is a founding member of the school's movie club, where students meet to view old classics and discuss their meaning and significance. One of his audacious dreams is to become a full-time professional film critic.