Premise: In a film that’s better off seeing without having any kind of heads up on what it’s actually about (I went into it without even watching the trailer first), I’ll just say it’s about a troubled young woman named Emily (Rooney Mara) who is dealing with depression after losing all of her assets when her insider trading scandal husband (Channing Tatum) gets sent to prison. But the story picks up right as he gets out once again, then it becomes about Emily’s reaction to a new depression medication called Ablixa, which has some interesting SIDE EFFECTS. OR DOES IT? YES? IT DOES? MAYBE? PERHAPS? I THINK SO? OR NOT? Well, you should just go see the movie.
-The biggest compliment I can give this movie, and it’s a BIG compliment, is that I had NO idea where the story was going. And that’s incredibly refreshing. Side Effects starts off slow, develops the characters wonderfully, sets up all the events that lead to the end, takes the movie down a path I wasn’t expecting it to go, THEN takes it another direction I wasn’t expecting it to, again. Even the major scene that they foreshadow in the opening moments didn’t play out the way I thought it would. It was just such a great, well-developed story. And it had fleshed out characters and nice little moments throughout.
-The ending. Ohhhh how much I loved the ending. I won’t say anything about it except that I loved it. The last 15-20 minutes had me grinning pretty hard.
-The acting was top-notch, especially from Rooney Mara and Jude Law. Jude Law is a guy I usually forget exists right up until the second that I’m in a movie theater watching him in a movie. I’m actually not that big a fan of his in general (I thought he was kind of lame in Contagion, for instance), but he’s wonderful in Side Effects. Channing Tatum keeps his clothes on, so that was kind of an acting stretch for hi- WAIT, no he had his shirt off in one scene. Nevermind.
-I liked the muted, dull color scheme throughout most of the movie, which I’m sure subliminally made me feel depressed. It was the Ablixa of color schemes! I like subliminally interactive movie experiences. Manipulate my emotions, movie!
-It felt about as Steven Soderberghy as a Steven Soderbergh film can get. Sometimes his quiet, slow, introspective, almost-too-realistic seeming style works out really nice (Traffic, The Informant!, Magic Mike), and other times it doesn’t work out so well and comes across as slightly drab (The Girlfriend Experience, Contagion, Haywire). In the case of Side Effects, it worked out perfectly, perhaps even the best use of Soderbergh’s style in the entire Soderbergh catalogue.
-Did I say how much I liked the ending?
-There were times when the production value seemed rather low. Considering the project cost $30 million, I’m kind of surprised by this. I mean, maybe that’s not a lot by big Hollywood standards, but this looks like it cost MUCH less than $30 million. I didn’t know how much the budget was when I was watching it, but I guessed incorrectly that it was in the $5 million ballpark. Where did all the money go? I guess the cast might have cost a lot? Did Catherine Zeta Jones ask for $15 million or something? That just seems like something she would do.
-Also on the subject of it being cheap looking, at the beginning it was almost distracting how much the movie looked like it was shot with a bad digital camera. I’m not saying they DID shoot with a bad digital camera, they probably actually shot with something good, but it LOOKED bad. At least in the beginning. The cinematography did improve as the film went on. Or maybe I just adjusted to it? But there were also times when pans looked like they were done on a shaky tripod or something. Sometimes it felt like I was watching the best looking college film I’ve ever seen, which is of course is quite the backhanded compliment.
-Channing Tatum as a financial expert…? HA!
Final Thoughts: As far as thrillers go, you’re not going to find a much better example of the genre in theaters than Side Effects. It’s a well scripted, well-directed, well-acted, well-edited little film. And it’s Soderbergh’s last theatrical effort! You need to go see it just for that reason alone! Everyone’s favorite Dean Pelton look-a-like isn’t going to make any more films after this. All he has left on the slate is a HBO film about Liberace. I bet he’ll be back at some point, but still, this is the last film from him for at least a while. This is a guy who challenged the theory that you can’t release a decent movie in February. Respect SoDEANbergh.
8.5 out of 10