In the winter drought of good movies, I obviously don’t expect much. In fact, it’s this time of year that I visit the theater much less frequently. I don’t have the patience for bad movies. Yet, there are always one or two good ones that emerge during these first two months of the year. I hoped that Side Effects would be one of them, and it was, way more than I had expected it to be.
Side Effects stars Rooney Mara, her first movie since her Oscar-nominated performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Here, Mara plays Emily Taylor, a 20-something woman dealing with depression, while welcoming her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), home after he spent five years in jail for insider trading. His sentence caused her to lose a luxurious and rich life, and now she’s trying to move on with him to rebuild what they once had. Unfortunately, her depression keeps stopping her. After a failed suicide attempt, she meets Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her a new drug. At first, this new drug seems like a godsend to Emily, but things begin to change once the side effects set in…
The less you know about Side Effects, the more entertaining it is. I went in there after only seeing the trailer once and was totally enraptured from the very beginning. The twists and turns go to unexpected places. Thinking about it now, they would seem so predictable and maybe a bit preposterous. But screenwriter Scott Z. Burns writes a smart script with compelling characters, and director Steven Soderbergh handles it all brilliantly. I honestly don’t think anyone could’ve made a movie like this a good one, besides Soderbergh or maybe even Alfred Hitchcock, if he was alive and kicking today.
With a good script and good directing, we also get fine performances, in particular from the two leads, Rooney Mara and Jude Law. For those still doubting Mara’s acting ability, her performance as Emily Taylor is sure to convince you that she’s great. Law has been on a roll lately. He impressed me in Anna Karenina late last year and again with this movie. Law can really show his stuff when he’s given the right material. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum and Ann Dowd also offer good supporting performances.
I’m both happy and sad that Side Effects is *reportedly* Soderbergh’s last big screen movie. (We still have his TV movie, Behind the Candelabra, which is to premiere sometime later this year.) I’ll miss Soderbergh’s styles of filmmaking and his movies; I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. But it’s good that he’ll end his big screen directing career with Side Effects, the type of clever and entertaining thriller that I wish audiences would get more of from Hollywood.
Side Effects hits theaters Friday, February 8th.