Dear Steven Soderbergh:
Please don't stop making movies.
Your name is high on the list of filmmakers whose careers I'm thankful have coincided with my career as a movie critic. And Side Effects is further proof that you are at the height of your powers as a filmmaker.
There's my plea. Meanwhile, thanks for Side Effects. Looking forward to the Liberace film.
If Side Effects is Steven Soderbergh's last theatrical release (that Liberace film, Behind the Candelabra, will air on HBO in May), it's a terrific exit, coming as it does on the heels of Magic Mike and Haywire, both released last year. Soderbergh shows absolute control over his material, holding the audience right where he wants them, which is, for most of the film, in the dark, thinking they know what's going on without revealing that, in fact, this is a movie about something else altogether.
Which makes it a challenging film to review. There's a moment about halfway through when the movie makes a sharp turn; the ground shifts under your feet and you are suddenly watching a different film than you thought.
Let's see what we can say about the plot: Rooney Mara stars as Emily, who works for an advertising agency while she's waiting for her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), to get out of jail. He's been doing a few years for insider trading; they used to live lavishly in Greenwich, but now she's barely making ends meet in a small apartment in Manhattan.
Even as Martin gets out of jail, Emily is obviously falling apart. It comes to a head, of sorts, when she slams her car into a wall on purpose. She winds up in the emergency room, where the doctor on call, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), spots her as a possible suicide. But she convinces him that it was a momentary impulse, telling him that she's willing to come to therapy with him -- and then lets him prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
But these pharmaceuticals have -- well, the title says it all: She's either on edge or listless -- and even starts sleepwalking. Dr. Banks prescribes other drugs to counteract the side effects, but those come with their own consequences.
And let's leave it at that: There are, in fact, unexpected side effects and plot turns. But to say more would be to get into spoiler territory.
This review continues on my website.