Side Effects Review

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

It’s one of those colourful sayings I used to chuckle at in my youth, but the older I get the less funny it seems.

Emily is one of those prim and proper yet utterly bored looking women you see scattered around one of the better neighbourhoods in life.

Perfectly coiffed and immaculately turned out, it’s a little surprising to see her show up at a prison in Side Effects opening scene, though it’s less shocking when you realise her husband has been living it down for the last 4 years because of some illegal insider trading.

Still, the happy day arrives when Emily’s beau, Martin, is released and, with a slew of new financial contacts from his time on the inside, the happy couple can begin to get on with their life.

So when Emily deliberately drives her car straight into a wall, something doesn’t add up.

Referred to handsome psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks, Emily is given a cocktail of various drugs to help her deal with this depression, including a brand new one where the side effects are as yet unknown.

Thanks to the unique way healthcare in the US is funded, Emily is happy to play human guinea pig for some free meds and seems to make great progress as her life gets back to normal.

But then a shocking turn of events leads to some rather violent side effects, with the most disconcerting consequences of all waiting for Dr Banks.

Side Effects is the new and supposedly last major film from Steven Soderbergh and, having been a fan of his slick back catalogue of cinema hits, I was pretty disappointed with the first half of his latest feature.

There’s nothing wrong with it per se, Side Effects fine ensemble cast of pretty and famous folk grabs your interest at first, but it starts to feel a little too much like a high quality made for tv special warning about the dangers of taking untested drugs.

Just as I was about to doubt the great director, Side Effects snaps from its deliberately comatose state to twist everything on its head and draw you into the premise Soderbergh has cleverly spun.

Rooney Mara makes her first notable appearance since boldly playing Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s version of that Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and is pretty compelling as the wounded Emily she plays here.

Channing Tatum is given little to do as Emily’s husband Martin other than looking dead good in a suit, which he does, Jude Law carries on showing that he’s actually a fine actor with his leading role of Dr Jonathan Banks whilst Catherine Zeta Jones proves she does get irony by playing Bank’s fellow psychologist who has some serious issues with her daddy.

Side Effects is a very decent yarn with a pleasingly sharp sting in the tale, so I won’t spoil any of the surprise that lies in wait for the next victim of Soderbergh’s swansong.

And while I’d have to acknowledge the truth of that earlier saying about hell, fury and all that jazz, there’s something else I’ve learnt from life.

You don’t want to fuck with daddy, because once a man’s lived for long enough in this world, he’ll be able to see through all the twisted little games broken girls like to play with people.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2013
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