Saturday, February 23, 2013


For all the press/hype that director Steven Soderburgh generated over the years, his body of work's a little meh, wouldn't you say? I just scanned his IMDB directing profile to see how many of his films I'd seen in the past decade, and while I've seen a few, the only one I really liked was "Contagion", and I've forgotten everything about that one other than there being a disease or something and Matt Damon was somehow involved. Last really great film of his? 2000's "Traffic". Well. We were all so much younger then. Into that breach steps his new "SIDE EFFECTS", and in the post-Oscar nomination, pre-Oscars period, this seems to be the mainstream-ish film that discerning filmgoers are going to see. Wanting to be just like them, my wife and I went to see it this past weekend.

Not really knowing what to expect, about midway through the film I realized that this was one of the best thrillers I'd seen in ages, and blurted out to my wife that this was so, which she of course very much appreciated me saying during a crucial scene in the movie. It stars Rooney Mara as a clinically depressed wife whose husband has just been released from prison for insider trading. She can't function in normal society with her crippling depression, which has her breaking down sobbing for no reason, and unable to hold it together even with her husband. She begins seeing a psychiatrist played by Jude Law, who prescribes her a variety of antidepressants before settling on a new, more experimental one that has profound side effects.

We then see Mara's character murder her husband while in a comotose-like sleepwalking state. She's put in prison, and mounts a defense that she was the victim of the drug and didn't know what she was doing. I'm going to have to stop there. I'm sorry about that - I only got you about halfway through the film, but like any good thriller full of curveballs, things get a little more interesting from that point on. Soderburgh's directing is tense, taut and well-edited, and he gets excellent performances out of Law, Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Mara's psychiatrist from her years living as a rich lady in Connecticut, before her husband was arrested. The latter's role is key, so watch her closely when you see this one.

The film exists on a few levels; most media are calling it an "anti-pharma" film, and perhaps it is. It certainly shows the sleaziness of the medical/pharmatological complex, what with the pretty drug reps and their free samples coming onto horny older doctors, who then prescribe those samples to their patients. The real film is about the psychiatrist played by Law, trying to figure out whether he himself is guilty of a being a part of this complex or if he's a victim of something more sinister. Totally first-rate film and one you should probably take a gander at.