Movie Review: Side Effects (2013)

Read somewhere that this is a post-modern Hitchcockian mystery noir. Me, I call it a psychological crime thriller that aspires to Hitchcockian mystery noir.

Still, here are some reasons you should watch this:

1) Steven Soderbergh, Director: I’ve watched most of his films and this is another stylized Soderbergh offering with its distinct use of music and montage filling in where dialogue is almost unnecessary. [Side-note: Oh, and I don’t know about all this retiring business on the interwebs but he did say, on NPR’s Fresh Air that he wasn’t retiring from working and just wanted to try different things. More power to him going against the big Hollywood studio grain].

2) Scott Z Burns, Writer: Most know him because of An Inconvenient Truth. But, he also wrote a bunch of other good ‘uns like Informant!, Contagion and The Bourne Ultimatum. I haven’t actually read one of his scripts, but, judging from the movies, I love his use of action and dialogue. He leaves a lot of room for the actors and the audience to work through their own imaginations (or, demons, one might even say).

3) Rooney Mara: My goodness. I have not seen the Dragon Tattoo movie with Mara and Craig because I read the Larsson books, watched the original Swedish versions and Noomi Rapace will forever be Lisbeth Salander for me. So, the only thing I’d seen Mara in before was The Social Network. Not a very big part, although she certainly left an impression. In this one, she OWNS it. No question. The disturbotopian (yeah, I just made that up) layers that she conveys through every single scene… I’ve never wanted to be an actor, but it sure made me wish I had just a bit of the wild courage that she demonstrates.

4) Jude Law: Besides Soderbergh, Law was my biggest reason for wanting to see this. And he did not disappoint. His journey from caring therapist and devoted family man to defeated underdog and scheming, self-appointed detective who finally comes out on top is convincing enough. Yet, he does n0t make you pity him entirely. There’s a part of him that’s also very self-serving as the ambitious psychiatrist with somewhat flexible moral boundaries and what he will do to maintain a certain lifestyle. The plot unfolds such that you’re piecing the story together along with him, so there really isn’t time to pause and commiserate. That, by the way, is some good storytelling right there.

5) Catherine Zeta JonesShe’s a Soderbergh favorite and plays a vamp here so well that I wonder she doesn’t get called on often to do so. I do wish that her plotline with Mara would have been a little less predictable, but, oh well, we can’t have everything. She is definitely the perfect foil — where Mara gets a lot across with the fewest words, Zeta Jones’s impact is stronger from having the best lines in the movie.

Light and shadows playing off each other and images that linger in your mind for days afterward. Just my kinda movie.

Aside: If the medical side of the story got you more interested, you might consider checking out this sharp book from 2005: The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It by Marcia Angell. It’s not just an eye-opener, it will rip and tear the blinkers off.

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