Thursday Night Movie Club
Side Effects
star rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphic
Release Date: 8 February 2013

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rooney Mara
Channing Tatum
Jude Law
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Carmen Pelaez
Marin Ireland
Polly Draper
Haraldo Alvarez
James Martinez
Vladimi Versailles
Jacqueline Antaramian
Michelle Vergara Moore
Katie Lowes
David Costabile
Mamie Gummer
Emily Taylor
Martin Taylor
Dr. Jonathan Banks
Dr. Victoria Siebert
Prison Desk Guard
Upset Visitor
Emily's Boss
Garage Attendant
Police Officer at Hospital
Desk Nurse
Conference Organizer
Side Effects movie poster Side Effects movie poster Side Effects movie poster
Rooney Mara as Emily Taylor in Side EffectsSide Effects is a very good movie. The film is dark and foreboding. It asks a very interesting question. Unfortunately, the screen play by Scott Z. Burns does not fully develop the answer.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) has spent the last few years struggling to keep afloat. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) was a very successful stock trader until he was caught and imprisoned for insider trading. Martin has been released from prison but Emily remains in her own prison of depression. The return of her husband should make Emily happy. It doesn't.

After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Emily comes under the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes anti-depressants. Emily tries to reconnect socially but is stricken by a panic attack. A woman at the party notices Emily's condition and suggests Emily ask her doctor about a new anti-depressant called Ablixa. Dr. Banks prescribes the medication and the results are immediate. Emily is happy. Her sex drive has returned.

Jude Law as Dr. Jonathan Banks in Side EffectsHowever, like all medications, Ablixa has a list of possible "side effects."

One of those side effects is sleep walking. Martin comes home one day to find Emily preparing dinner. But something isn't quite right. Emily set the table for three. Before Martin can find out what is going on, Emily stabs Martin and then quietly crawls into bed and falls asleep.

For a brief moment, Side Effects becomes a very fascinating film. As Emily awaits trial for murder, her lawyer is looking into alternatives. Questions arise: Who is at fault? Is Emily accountable for murder while sleepwalking? Can someone be charged with murder if they have no recollection of the event? Should Dr. Banks have been more prudent before prescribing this particular medication? Are the drug manufacturers culpable? Does faulty marketing have a role to play in the events? As the list of questions grows, the finger pointing begins. Everyone wants a quick resolution of this case.

Rooney Mara as Emily Taylor in Side EffectsThese are questions that writer Scott Z. Burns glosses over. These questions and others that arise could be developed into a fully captivating film full of twists, turns, double-crosses, back-stabbing and all-out corporate warfare to save one's particular hide.

The first half of Side Effects belongs to Rooney Mara. Mara is an amazing actress. She is very attractive yet she uses her good looks to great effect. Mara's eyes are most telling. In one scene, Emily is standing stiff while staring at a billboard ad for Ablixa. In other key scenes, Emily's eyes are darting back and forth, up and down... never fixating on any point in space for more than a second. Emily avoids direct eye contact. When she does look someone in the eye, her head and body are facing another direction. Mara's depiction of Emily's mood swings is right on target for someone suffering depression. It is easy to hide depression while in a large group. Depression is harder to handle when you are alone. Mara's performance is hypnotic. You can't take your eyes off of her.

The second half of Side Effects follows Dr. Jonathan Banks. Once his involvement and possible responsibility for the crime turns his personal and professional life upside down. Dr. Banks is set upon by the press and paparazzi. He loses a lucrative contract for a research study. His client list all but dries up. His partners want him to resign.

Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum in Side EffectsJude Law is effective as Dr. Banks. He transistions from a normal doctor to frustration as his life slowly disintigrates around him. One unpredictable side effect to a drug destroys Emily's and Bank' lives. He desperately wants his life back, the way it was. His frustration and mounting desperation lead him to start his own investigation into Emily's life.

Dr. Bank's investigation hits a brick wall at every turn. The judge has made a final ruling on Martin Taylor's death. The police have closed the case. They are wondering what and more importantly why is Banks wasting his time.

The discovery of new information results in the final puzzle growing larger. Something is quietly going on behind the scenes and Banks just can't quite put his finger on it. Unfortunately for Side Effects, Jude Law is nowhere near as captivating as Rooney Mara. Channing Tatum doesn't have much to do besides look good and be charming. He is. Catherine Zeta-Jones approaches the role of Dr. Victoria Siebert with the emotional range of a tea spoon. Psychologists are supposed to be logical, not emotional. Zeta-Jones gives a deadpan, stereotypical job portraying a psychologist.

Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Side EffectsSide Effects is two movies in one. The film has a great opening due entirely to the wonderful Rooney Mara. Mara's performance is captivating. She grabs the audience's sympathy and empathy and doesn't let go. Martin Taylor's slaying is a tremendous shock even though this scene was foreshadowed at the beginning of the film.

The momentum, suspense, dread, foreboding build throughout Side Effects. The film reaches its pinnacle midway through. So many questions have been raised that the film can proceed in any number of directions. The path taken by director Stephen Soderberg and writer Scott Z. Burns is a surprise. The two are clever enough to keep the surprises coming. Unfortunately, they also take the safe path which is a surprise in itself. Had Soderberg and Burns taken more of a risk, they may have created a truly great film.

Rooney Mara's performance is enough to go see Side Effects Enjoy the ride!

Side Effects movie poster Side Effects movie poster Side Effects movie poster