Film: Side Effects (2013)
Cast includes: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), Jude Law (Enemy at the Gates), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago)
Director: Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Contagion)
Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller (106 minutes)
The first scenes show us a blood-smeared floor. The camera pans over it and comes to rest on a giftwrapped package. Three months earlier, we see Emily touching up her lipstick before going into the prison to visit her husband, Martin. His 4-year sentence for insider trading is almost up, and he's been getting counseling on reentry. "They say, go slow." "We can go slow," says Emily. But when Martin does get home, everything feels off... not just for Martin, but for Emily, too. When Emily gets into her car and slams it into the wall of her parking garage, it's a miracle she survives with only minor head trauma. Because it was obviously a suicide attempt, so before the hospital will release her, Dr. Jonathan Banks needs to certify that she's ok to go. He's not so sure, but he lets her go with a plan for follow-up and an SSRI for depression. In a follow-up session, we learn about how perfect Emily's life used to be until it all came crashing in. We also learn that Emily's been treated for depression before by Dr. Victoria Siebert. So Banks talks with Siebert to see if he can learn anything helpful about Emily's history. Siebert thinks it's a good thing that Emily is seeing a man this time. Maybe she needed a change. So far they haven't found an antidepressant that seems to work well enough for Emily. Siebert says she'd probably try one of the new ones... say, Ablixa.
Banks would rather keep trying more familiar products, but another near fatal incident convinces him to try Ablixa. As it turns out, Ablixa is almost like a miracle drug... except for side effects like sleepwalking and excessive shopping. The lovemaking is wonderful, though. "Who ever makes this drug is gonna be fucking rich," says Martin. Maybe the side effects can be managed with other drugs... or maybe not. This is where we catch up to the blood smeared floor from the beginning. Emily doesn't remember anything. Yet all evidence points to her... and the Ablixa side effects. "Did she do it? Is she guilty? In this case, those are 2 very different things."
It's not just Emily on trial... it's obviously Ablixa and the drug company. Dr. Banks comes under scrutiny, too... except that his justice is a verdict of public opinion. It seems there's plenty of blame to go around, but the story's not over yet. Side Effects is a smart narrative with some unexpected twists and turns. It has a great cast, but most of the credit goes to director Steven Soderbergh, who skillfully keeps the story interesting and suspenseful all the way through. Everyone who watches TV is familiar with the ads for antidepressants with the vague claims about happiness... and then there's the long, mind-numbing list of serious-sounding side effects. Why would anyone take these drugs? Dr. Banks defines depression as "an inability to start a new future." Emily thought she was getting her future back, but maybe things didn't go as planned.
3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A deeply depressed woman finds relief when her doctor puts her on Ablixa until the side effects prove totally unacceptable
Rated: R (Violence, Sexual Content, Crime)
Audience: Young adults
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment
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You may want to read about:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Enemy at the Gates