Side Effects

The films of Steven Soderbergh are at times an acquired taste. His films are mostly moody, dry and have a camera imbedded in real life feel to them. His music tracks are not always prevalent and are at times not used at all. With "Side Effects", Soderbergh is his typical self. The images portrayed are very realistic with natural sound and moments where dialogue isn't needed. I haven't always been the biggest fan of Soderbergh, but if Soderbergh's film methods ever worked, it was with 2000's "Traffic" and possibly 1998's "Out of Sight". Now you can add "Side Effects" to the list.

Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike", "G.I. Joe: Retaliation) plays Martin Taylor, a convict being released after serving 6 years for insider-trading. His wife, Emily, played by Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is on the surface a normal woman who has suffered and sacrificed while the man she loved was locked away. As the film plays out, we begin to learn that Emily is far from normal. She is suffering deeply from depression and has been prescribed numerous depression drugs in order to cope. None of them seem to help. Emily's former psychiatrist Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) recommends to her new psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), that she begin to take a new drug called Ablixa. It is a wonder drug and it is a complicated drug.

Some of the best filmmakers save on dialogue and scenes with simple, quiet camera shots that explain everything. Soderbergh is at the height of his game in this film. Whether it be a sexual encounter that leaves one spouse disappointed or the simple act of cutting vegetables to cue the audience that someone is not herself or sleepwalking, a simple moment can explain everything without explanation. Having not been a big fan of Soderbergh, I have a new appreciation for his willingness to make films that challenge the mind instead of just the eye.

"Side Effects" is a nice little thriller that gets complicated as it twists and turns upon itself, but in the end I found the material a little too predictable. The early moments of the film are top notch. The hidden feelings are explored by Soderbergh's techniques and you, as an audience member, pick up on those as fishy. Yet, as the movie gets deeper into the explanation, I found it, for lack of better terms, plain. Sure, the best magic tricks are those that are covered with many levels of smoke and mirrors and are really simply explained, but this was more like a magic trick in which the audience could see the explanation a mile away.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good film for Soderbergh. In a world that is littered with prescription drug after prescription drug and more and more people dependent upon them, this movie hits home and uses that helplessness to drag you, the audience member, through its twists and turns. "Side Effects" proves why Soderbergh, with his actions instead of promotion, is a fair comparison to a great director like Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock knew how to quietly sneak up on you and toy with your emotions. Although the material later in the film spoiled what could have been a much better movie.