Side Effects is Steven Soderbergh‘s latest film and it packs a punch. It sways from one extreme to another within the course of minutes. It’s something that could throw off or upset viewers. Despite the time given to settle into the environment, the twists and turns overcompensate for a missing element. 

The Players

The Plot:

Emily’s (Mara) life is slowly coming back together. Her husband Martin (Tatum) has just been released from jail and they’ve reunited. Shortly after his return, Emily’s depression begins to consume her and she tries to harm herself. After a suicide attempt gone wrong, she’s referred to a psychiatrist (Law) who puts her on an untested medication, which has deadly side effects.

The Good:

  • The Mystery of it All: Everybody loves a good old mystery. If handled right, it can keep grab our attention from beginning to end. While the story’s endgame is a bit questionable, the ride it takes us on is worth it. This isn’t the first time Scott Z. Burns worked with Soderbergh and it shows. When you have a solid creative relationship, you can easily differentiate what moments are strongest due to the script and others thanks to the director. Despite our opinion of the big reveal, the film has a rousing plot.
  • Master Soderbergh: Soderbergh hasn’t taken a break from directing in years. That explains why he’s never lost his touch. It’s inspiring to see him continually push himself with different topics. And the subtle but noticeable changes in his style. If Side Effects is Soderbergh’s last film, it’s a great way to go out. He leaves a strong visual imprint on each scene, putting us into the minds of Emily and Dr. Banks as they descend into their own personal hell.
  • Mara And Law: It appears as if some people still underestimate Rooney Mara. Within the past couple years she’s proven that her acting abilities are far from sub-par. In Side Effects she continues to prove her acting range as she transforms into a mentally unstable woman who goes from contentment to utter despair. Keep it up Ms. Mara, you’re doing a fine job. Most of the cast does great, particularly Jude Law whose own character deals with an emotionally uphill battle as his reputation is dragged through the mud. It’s nice to see the veteran challenge himself in a movie like this rather than a blockbuster franchise.
  • Saturation Cool Down: Sometimes Soderbergh’s love affair with hues of blue and yellow are bothersome, but this time he toned it down. No one’s skin was painted a sickly yellow.

The Decent:

  • That Big Twist: There’s no way anybody can discuss Side Effects without touching upon the third act twist. When Dr. Banks deals with the possibility that he may be wrong, it gets a little Hitchcock-like. Is he completely falling apart mentally, clawing his way out of professional damnation because he made a mistake or is there more to it? The end result makes many, including myself, feel like they over-elaborated on something so simple.

The Bad:

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones: Before you start hurling rocks this way, Catherine Zeta-Jones is a fine actress. But her performance in Side Effects resembled that of the smug, mustache-twirling villain. It’s obvious that she’ll have more to do with the darker aspect of the story as it unfolds. It’s just unpleasant to watch her play such a one-sided character.

Overall:

Although it has its problems, Side Effects has strong direction and acting, which warrants a watch.

The Rating:  6/10

Side Effects hits theaters February 8th.

Photo Gallery:

Trailer:

Will you be seeing Side Effects this weekend?