Let’s face it, I think most people will agree that Haywire, Magic Mike and the Girlfriend Experience are not going to make any of his “best of” lists. Frankly, much the same could be said of his fluffy Ocean’s films. But in contrast, he’s made some good films, too. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Traffic, Solaris (I think so) and The Informant! are among them. And now, the sharp thriller, Side Effects.
I chose not to read too much about this film so not ot spoil it or give me any preconceived ideas about it. That turned out to be a good thing because it definitely didn’t go where I was afraid it might. In the past number of years, Steven Soderbergh has been more inconsistent as to the quality of his films. Let’s face it, I think most people will agree that Haywire, Magic Mike and the Girlfriend Experience are not going to make any of his “best of” lists. Frankly, much the same could be said of his fluffy Ocean’s films. But in contrast, he’s made some good films, too. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Traffic, Solaris (I think so) and The Informant! are among them. And now, the sharp thriller, Side Effects.
I like Soderbergh, in the sense that at least he’s a director that makes a wide range of films. He’s isn’ t pidgeon-holed. And I’m fine with a guy that has the freedom to make a film that’s a small, personal project. He can make a big Hollywood picture one year, and turn around and make a little independent the next. Cool. I’m all for that. But on either side you can still turn out an average, or less than average, product. And lately, he hasn’t made the best movies. Fortunately for us, Side Effects is one of the better films in his oeuvre. Good thing, too, seeing as Soderbergh is now saying that this is his last feature theatrical film. Yeah yeah, ok, Steven, we’ll see. People say that stuff all the time, and a couple years later they have a new film. It’ll remain to be seen.
In Side Effects, a woman with depression and anxiety issues is prescribed by her pscychiatrist a new medication, but soon she finds her world unraveling by it’s unusal side effects.
This is one of the best, most concise, yet deviously misleading explanations for a film I’ve ever read. I fear talking too deeply about this film because for me, it went nowhere near where my imagination thought it might go. I will say, however, if you think this is one of those borderline science fiction films where the drug she takes changes her in some vast way, or she becomes some sort of monster, you’re wrong. (It’s like everything in my head goes to science fiction.) Yeah, it’s no Altered States. It takes a very realistic approach and stays grounded in the real world.
Side Effects a twisty thriller that has great performances by all, and deals with the ever-popular and growing industry of pharmacutical anti-depressants. But it’s not all preachy – it’s just the backdrop for this game of who’s got who under their thumb. It’s a fun and tense ride to see where it goes, right to the end.
With a cast like Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, I can assure you that you’re in capable hands here, too. And kudos to Scott Z. Burns who wrote the screenplay – his third Soderbergh film – The Informant! and Contagion before this.
Soderbergh redeems any misgivings I may have had with silliness like Magic Mike, and the not-so-good, but slightly under-rated Haywire. If he really is walking away from directing theatrical features, then at least he made a good one to out out on, because Side Effects is a fun thriller. And for a February movie, well, it’s nearly unprecdented to be this good. Four kittenhands for Side Effects.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, thinking this is a gem in the cavern of early year coal.